When I got back together with my then-boyfriend-now-husband in 2013, one of the things that he has never stopped raving about was Brazilian jiu jitsu, or BJJ as it is more popularly known. Actually, when he first started proposing that we get back together early that year, he has expressed, consistently and with gusto, that bjj is his passion. So, being the curious cat that I am, I looked it up.
At that point, all I knew about bjj is the jj part of it: the use of technical grappling to submit an opponent regardless of weight and build. True enough, I was close to the money. The Brazilian aspect I just had to learn over the years. To be honest, I haven’t stopped learning about it even. The names Gracie, Barra, Marcelo, Miyao have become normal fixtures of our conversations. I can’t believe I’m even into UFC now, and sometimes even see myself checking out schedules of local BJJF tourneys that the husband can participate in. I didn’t fully comprehend how much bjj is a part of our life until we got married and started living together.
Monday, foundations class. Tuesday, no gi. Wednesday, advanced class. Thursday, intermediate class. Friday, foundations and open mat. Saturdays, open mat. Sundays, open mat. I’m not saying he’s attending all these classes, but I am also not saying that that has not happened. Hahaha. The husband spends at least an hour and 30 minutes in the AllStar MMA Training Facility, bringing along his brother and his childhood friend in the mix.
It’s not easy being a bjj wife. Truthfully speaking, it’s still not any easy even though my enthusiasm for it has significantly grown. I am only a year or so into this marriage and already, I have these lessons nailed down for me.
- Find the time to watch your partner train. Since I am (still) unemployed, the husband would take me to his school where I would wait for him as he trains. A lot of people often wonder why I have to go. Well, for one, you would want to see your partner in action. It’s a beautiful sight, watching someone do what he/she loves. Second, he spends a lot of time in this school. That and juggling two jobs, watching him train is quality time. Last and certainly not the least, you can take videos of him training, videos that he will watch back during his lunchtime at work so he can see where else he can improve. In the simple act of observation, you are becoming a better partner that helps him work on his passion. You don’t have to come every single time. I’m just saying a visit won’t hurt every once in a while.
- You will have a bjj family. There will be other wives there, waiting on the same thing. Chances are, the school will also have children’s classes. So your sons, daughters, nephews and nieces will share some playtime after class. The cuts and bruises and injuries will all likely be the same, so you share remedies, quick fixes of all sorts. You alert each other when there’s a gi on sale or when someone’s competing this weekend. Your bjj family will become such a part of your life. They will be your co-cheerleaders, your co-nurses and co-therapists, your post-fight meal buddies, your family in every sense of the word.
- Learn how to massage. It doesn’t have to be a perfect massage and it doesn’t have to be applied to everyone you know. Chances are your partner will always have that one ache in his/her back or shoulders or hips. Just know what pressure he/she prefers and at what part of his/her body. I myself have spent countless hours rubbing that tight spot by his right hip or the curve by his neck and shoulders, and I have been complemented (by him of course) that that was better than Icy Hot or Bengay.
- Accept the ear, among others. This ear. Yes. It is inevitable. That will blow up. And to the bjj learner, that is a badge of honor. The symbol of all the hours of hard work on the mat. The proof that they are trying to teach as much as they have learned. There will also be bruises that look like hickies, especially during the week when they’re drilling chokes. Their biceps will always have those dotted bruises from their partners’ grips. Get used to calluses too, and finger joints that slowly swell up; practicing gi grip basics will do that to you. Some bruises will even go as high as the upper inner thigh. When you see them practicing spider guards, you’ll understand where it comes from. Sooooooo yeah. You just have to accept it. I, however, have chosen to negotiate a level of bloatedness before I insist on having his ear drained. We are yet to come to an agreement.
- Prepare to lose tickle fights. They will always be more limber than you. Remember, your partner is learning the extent to which he can maneuver his physical ability. It is technical learning. It’s quite improbable to win a tickle fight even if you know that tickle spot. It will not weaken your partner. He/She will only rise and find a different way to get to you. They train JIU JITSU. They’re conditioning reflexes that will allow them to escape the most uncomfortable positions ever known to man. Restricted breathing is a normal thing for them. That’s all they do, find a different way to get to their opponent. So yeah, a win on a tickle fight is highly improbable, even for a white belt.
- It’s okay to not take up bjj yourself. Each time I’m at the school waiting for him, people would just tell me to join. Personally, bjj is yet to tickle my fancy. You know that saying do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life? It’s true for this too. Bjj takes you down so many notches, that some who tried it never came back. I like bjj, but I don’t love it yet. I’m sure I’ll get there, and so will you. There’s no rush though. Like what my husband always says, the mats are always there for you when you’re ready.
- Do not forget the importance of the two Hs: Hygiene and Hydration. Since immersing myself truly in being a bjj wife, I have come to resent the smell of bleach. Hahahaha. It’s true. But the husband rolls with different people who sweat differently than him on mats that have been used by a different class already. So cleanliness is imperative. For his gi and training rash clothes, we use OdoBan. Lysol has been a permanent resident in the car. Anything that touches his post training self, you must disinfect. That includes the jacket he puts over his rash guard because he’s in a rush to go home and didn’t have time to shower in the gym. And that towel he lays out on the driver seat. And because training makes him sweat a lot, it’s important to always have water on your person or in his bag. They train so hard, most of them don’t remember to drink, and they end up dehydrated. Remind them to drink as much as they sweat.
Side note: he does his own bjj laundry. I just guarantee his laundry supplies. I personally hate the smell of bleach, especially because it doesn’t help the gi too. While it does disinfect, it also weakens the weave, making it deteriorate faster than it should. Anyone who has gis know how expensive they can get. Anyone who trains also knows what it’s like to have that one favorite set that fits you just right and conforms to your body and movement the way you want to. So take care of it. Another winning solution is distilled white vinegar. Dump a cup or so during the soak cycle, and the detergent will rinse that smell right off.
- Bjj will always be a topic of conversation in any space at any time thru any medium. Dinner with friends. Picnic with family. Cuddle time in bed. Youtube videos. Articles. Jiu jitsu times. Text messages. Chats. Everywhere. Bjj will be everywhere. Ready yourself and read up on it too. A subscription to Flo Grappling may even be imperative. Count on bathroom time to be slightly longer than usual, because if there was a Pan Championship, Worlds, or Abu Dhabi World Pro broadcast over the weekend, they will be catching up on it, if they or one of their peers haven’t hosted a viewing party yet.
You are not required to be well versed about it. Just know enough that when they talk about it with you, your eyes won’t glaze over and your mind won’t drift off. Being able to put a picture to the term “bow and arrow” or “guillotine” that doesn’t fall into historical context will greatly encourage your partner to share more of what he does with you. I’m sure you can imagine the joy of having to talk to someone who knows what ‘s on your mind. My contributions to the conversation started out with “Did you know Anthony Bourdain is a blue belt?!” to “Demi Lovato just started bjj!” Hahahaha. My contributions will get better over time. Stock up on it. Surprise your partner with a bjj conversation and watch that light in him brighten up his face. It is a wonderful thing to witness.
- Celebrate every milestone. Did he get a stripe? Have dinner out. Did he get a belt promotion? Take loads of pictures. Get that bubble tea. Every milestone in this lifestyle (yes, bjj is not just a sport) counts big time because you will never know when the next one would be. I was so bummed when I wasn’t there when he got his purple belt, but it also made sense. He was with his peers, it was given to him by one of his favorite professors, and he shone all on his own. I couldn’t have been more proud.
- You are not and never will be in competition with bjj. This, I am still learning. Time training is not time away from you. It’s simply time training. Do not be the person that makes his/her partner choose between his passion and the love of his life. My husband always says if I tell him to not go train, he won’t go. But I’ve always known I can easily be the bad guy by preventing him from doing what he loves. While his hours of training did start to bother me at some point, I have to admit he comes home with a happier disposition. Whatever is stressing you out, leave it to the mats, they always say. And he does. Bjj is such a healthy release once I focused on how good it makes them feel overcoming their physical limits.
Our mothers would always tell me to talk him out of competing. It’s hard though, because while there is always an elevated level of risk during competitions, there’s also an elevated sense of accomplishment for the both of us. Remember, YOU are the partner. You share half of this journey. And it really is a journey. A journey of cutting weight for competition. A journey of finding alternative proteins and embarking a fibrous diet. A journey of looking up mouthguards and getting excited for gi deals on Fighter’s Market. A journey of 8 matches happening all at the same time and you and your bjj family divide up and cheer on each teammate. Don’t get lost in all the hustle and bustle of this lifestyle. It’s a good one, the kind that shapes a person wholly. Believe me, you are not in competition with that. You are a quite a big part of it.
I do not claim to know it all when it comes to supporting my husband in bjj. There will always be room to grow. Maybe one day I’ll even join him on the mats and see what the fuss is all about. But for now, I take so much pleasure watching him come home with a swollen eye, slightly limping, all sweaty, with that stupid grin on his face, saying “I almost tapped out today, it was amazing.”