2013 has been an exciting and challenging year and as it comes to a close, I’m feeling more positive about juggling life’s goals, aspirations and duties. At the start of 2013 I’d misapprehended my ability to parent, build a business, get my postpartum bod back in shape and relearn my BJJ. My expectations at the start of 2013 were unreasonable and didn’t adequately account for the demands of an infant; I hadn’t appreciated that the space where BJJ used to live would be filled by parenting, as this is the only way I can juggle growing my business with motherhood.

Here’s to good health in 2014.

Where I’ve Been

Personally and professionally there have been big wins. We’ve made great strides with Sproutee, against all odds and with no childcare until the last quarter: getting into business with a pack of great new clients; relaunching our company site; bringing a new sister site and service near to launch; and enhancing our hosting business’s infrastructure are a few milestones. We’ve made great progress with the little guy who seems a healthy, confident toddler with top baby signing skills, a well-adjusted disposition, and an apparent willingness to persist when confronted with a problem (to the extent a tiny can do so). All while living in comfort and safety with a super partner in cosy wee house. More blessings than I could reasonably expect. And yet, it really REALLY hurts to have my BJJ atrophy to the extent that it has. Dear reader, you know BJJ isn’t just an art you leave at the door of the dojo, it is a mindset, a worldview – ugh as much as I cringe at the phrase – ‘a lifestyle’. It gets in your bones, in your heart and in your mind and is integrated into the day-to-day with: training BJJ, updating a training diary, daydreaming BJJ, blogging BJJ, watching BJJ and all the other obsessive stuff we get up to. It is part of your marrow, your tissues, your identity; certainly my identity has long been strongly informed by being a ‘martial artist’ and over the last 9 years by being a ‘BJJer’, more specifically. Now, not so much, and in 2013:

  • I didn’t train BJJ as much as hoped (2 x week)
  • I didn’t daydream about BJJ as much as hoped (perhaps an hour all year)

This all hurts as it goes right to the core of me and while I have gained so much, a big part of me has died, or perhaps gone into a medical coma, and bringing ‘Megatron’ back to life is proving to be as mighty a challenge as keeping my arms tight to the bod and getting onto my side when under big dudes’ side control.

Since the summer I’ve been able to train once a week pretty regularly. This is a lot better than never, but if I get a cold, a load of client-work, or my knee swells up (as it does from time to time), and I miss a class, there is a big gap to my next window of opportunity. Similarly, as BJJ-friends reading this will know, twice a week is ‘more than double’. That is, to me, the increase in retention between one session per week and two sessions per week is more marked than between two and three. Likewise, my post-training debrief into my training diary is much more cursory and hit and miss than in my previous life. This lack of mat time and mental focus really shows when I do get the chance to grapple and I can’t help feeling that I ‘suck’. This is the downer news and is a bummer, largely, because I think I assumed I would be close to back on form by the end of this year.

The situation vis a vis BJJ is not as bleak as I’m painting and while juggling total craziness I’m happy that in 2013:

  • I did start training BJJ consistently
  • I did post at least 1 blog a month
  • I did keep the London BJJ Women’s Open Mat running, finding hostesses each quarter to make sure this time and space to train continued to be available (whole other milestone to actually be able to make an event).

Where I’m At

The good news is that I’ve ended the year in a much improved position in terms of my health and well-being. At the start of the year I was 71.5kgs and 24.5% fat; at the end of the year I’m 66kgs and 22% fat, so making good headway back to my prenatal 60kgs and 20% fat. Most of this improvement has been since the late summer when I started 2 x weekly personal training and 1 x weekly BJJ. The personal training is helping my overall recovery both from the pregnancy and the knee operation and I’m feeling stronger and more nimble every month. Of course the improved physicality is helping my BJJ; I’m not saying I’m trying to rely on attributes over technique, but if a sister can activate her core she’s going to have trouble executing her technique. I’m also pleased and thankful that I am getting my Friday BJJ as much as I can. I do have a pity-party for myself after most classes, lamenting my total skill-atrophy, and then I rub some dirt on it and come back the next week. Only one way to get better, but those of you who have had to take a BJJ-sabbatical for babies or injuries will know it can be disheartening to re-eat all the shit you thought you’d been through and moved past.

Where I’m Headed

Over the course of 2014, it’ll be all about keeping up the clean eating and personal training to help get back to my former lean-self. Alongside this will be hitting Friday BJJ as much as I can and working on a strategy to get to Dartford BJJ HQ during the week; we’re seriously considering a car and me finally getting a UK licence. It may still not be practical for me to get down there in light of parenting and business commitments (plus the ever-present spectre of sleep deprivation), but I am going to try to put structures in place to facilitate getting to a Dartford class on top of the Friday night session in Ilford. Two classes a week would make all the difference to retooling.

Sure, in the bigger picture maybe BJJ isn’t that big a deal and I can imagine people outside the art ridiculing my earnestness and focus on a ‘first world problem’ such as not feeling competent in BJJ as a purple belt at this time. That’s not really the point though. For me, BJJ is part of me and when I lost it I lost a big part of myself and it is vital to my sense of self and well-being that I bring it back into the balance of my life a bit more; it isn’t mutually exclusive to love my little man and the time we have together and want to be my own person (just really hard to implement). BJJ is taking a back seat to the business and the boy, and that will be status quo for the medium term, however assuming I can make the timing and commute to Dartford work, I feel that it is an achievable goal to get to 2 classes a week, and that would make a big difference to me as a martial artist.

What’s in it for you?

Yikes, this review is more than a little self-centred, is there anything for anyone else? I hope so. I hope reflecting honestly on how my life has changed in relation to BJJ and how that’s been hurtful and difficult for me (again, against a back drop of a whole lot of amazing), can support other new parents dealing with similar issues. Some folks have incredible local support systems or less intensive work commitments or easier access to their clubs or whatever boon of luck to get them back on form quickly after welcoming a new addition to the family. That’s brilliant and I love that for those people. Some of us, though, have commitments they do not/cannot subordinate to BJJ and the space where that sat in our lives before parenthood gets squeezed out and compressed. To those people, my brothers and sisters, I say, take heart BJJ is all about the long game. We’ll get there.