Midlife Crisis in Canvas : The return
Midlife Crisis in Canvas: The return
So its been a while. Since my last entry I had a kid, got divorced, met a girl, left my job, became an actor, ended up in Childeren’s court and blah blah blah. Needless to say it has been real. Real shit.
My original reason to get involved in BJJ was to replace rugby in the way I could get my need for physicality and camaraderie missing from hanging up my rugby boots. Since then as briefed on above my life took a turn down bullshit street and I was plagued with the inevitable mental health issues that a man under siege in his his late thirties would face. Except I wasn’t in my late thirties either. I turned 40. I was embroiled in a bitter legal battle and looking for escape and something to bring me back to planet earth and anchor me.
Come New Years Eve 2016 the year was blissfully kicked off with an angry break up with the woman I loved due to the machinations of my crazy ex wife. I mean really crazy ex wife. You all think you have had crazy but my ex is seriously a blue water cruise liner version of crazy. In order to cope I set my sights on BJJ to pull me through and move my life to a renaissance period.
During this period, I was lucky enough to get the support of now good friend and martial arts mentor David Brooksbank. Thanks to moving next to a BJJ Gym from the Gracie Humatia at Mona Vale. During January I attended a total of 40 classes. My fitness and familiarity with BJJ increased exponentially… obviously. I became mates with a lot of the guys I regularly rolled with and began to identify parts of “my game” that required a lot of work to be competitive with the other guys at the gym. I got better. Fast.
Then I got sick. Which is about as common as a Labour voter at the opera. A serious lung infection had me blowing hard peeling an orange, so three weeks on antibiotics and no training ensued. This was followed by a one week virus that had me drop 5 kgs in a week as my body turned into a PVC pipe. The aftermath of that was haemorrhoids the size of my fist that required an extensive cutting and cauterising that laid me into the toughest post operative recovery I have ever had. Whilst lying on the couch and dreading every visit to the bathroom like an Donald Trump press conference; I made a plan. I called Dave. I swore black and blue that with the respite from depression and PTSD that I experienced in the first two months of the year through BJJ – I wanted to go hell for leather. I was committing myself to “Arte Suarve”. Dave was in agreement … we were on a mission to see me get to Purple Belt as quickly as I could. After rallying the financial support together and getting cleared by the Doc I started my journey today 18 May 2016-05-16
I walked into the gym. I was nervous. I knew the first classes back would be the toughest …the local Black Belt Maricio was there. We spoke about my layoff and then joked about how I would not be able to run out of sight at night my cardio was that crap. My 6 foot three yank mate Marc showed up …. Looked like just us two. A very small class which normally got me psyched. I was out of breath in the warm ups ad lamented the fact there was no clock on the wall to count down the ensuing 90 minutes of hell. My post op had allowed me to do isometric strengthening exercises so although I felt strong I was immediately light headed and my lungs seared like a prime rib on a BBQ as I fought for breath in some of the drills.
Maybe it was fate but I then got taught the most useful drill I had ever been taught in BJJ, how to escape from a rear naked choke. Could have done with this the last twenty times I was woken up on the mats by another vindictive purple belt. Because I was wheezing like a cancer victim it was forcing me to keep my form as correct as possible. That and the fact a black belt was opposing me in the drills meant that there was simply no margin for error when he began to fully try and go for the choke. Although I’m aware Maricio took it easy on me most of the time I was serenely aware that all the black clouds in my head had parted as I focused and dropped completely into the moment again. The Gi across my chin the placement of my feet and hands, the shifting of the leverage. Its all I thought about. 90 minutes passed quickly and I actually felt very competent in this one thing that evaded me. I all of a sudden started licking my lips at the prospects of giving up my back to unsuspecting blue belts. The last roll as usual I went for it. A 40 second sprint at the end to announce I was back had me sweep a surprised Mark after he had essentially taken me apart for 8 minutes. As soon as we finished I laid back exhausted. I got it under my belt though. Cardio and anaerobic recovery returns quickly if you are smart in the rest of your training – eating and sleeping… so I walked home happy for the first time in some time and keen to meet David on the mats tomorrow and surprise him with my new escape. I’m back baby….
I was up early this morning to navigate my way from the Northern Beaches to Guilford… the spiritual home of the McCabe family: my mothers side of the brood that I named my family. It was my Uncle Tom’s funeral. Tom was one of those benign much loved spirits that meant for a large turn out. I have over 30 cousins on my mothers side and most of them have kids now. Due to my own trials and tribulations in the immediate past I had drifted away. I even contemplated not going, however my mother was very close to her brother and she required my support.
It was a sombre affair both in the church and at the wake. I did get reacquainted with my cousins and two in particular, Margaret and Helen, who seemed to have a got a potent comedic double act going. I realised that the drifting away was pretty much all on me and resolved to make amends. There were lots of promises to catch up and I exited to escort my mother to her train back to Nelson Bay. Why is this important? Well I left the funeral with a heavy heart although buoyed by the possibilities of re-establishing old bonds. I reflected on lost friends, lost relationships, my battles with my father and sisters and the current state of my life. I was excruciatingly aware of the journey that I had set myself on and also aware that it was in its infancy. I could have cancelled and gone home – but I bit down on the metaphorical mouth guard and marched to the UFC Gym to meet Dave Brooksbank on the mats for the kick off to my tuition.
Walking into the UFC Gym gives you the feeling of entering a space ship. The music is loud, like most gyms but unlike most gyms the UFC Gym is a massive space of conctrete and steel girders. From what I understand it is the biggest gym in Australia. Even if it isn’t it certainly feels like it is. After some confused banter with the new girl behind the desk that I probably misinterpreted as flirting, I headed into the cavernous space to find Dave. You genuinely could play the worlds best paint ball game in this joint.
I got there early and saw Dave rolling in his favourite blue Gi the Octogon with Diaz, a former combat engineer and blue belt. I liked Diaz. He was tough, articulate – like most combat engineers – and I think he had come to the conclusion like I did that there was some salvation in this BJJ thing from his army hangover. I made a mental note to aske Diaz if he wanted to catch up and roll in the future. Dave smiled and waved casually mid roll in a lackadaisical manner reserved only for black belts. I waived back and smiled. I studied the way the two were moving around and surmised that I had a month or two before I would be at that level. They took a quick break and Dave said hello. Diaz rested kneeling down like Qui Gon from the Phantom Menace before he got axed by Darth Maul. Not to diminish Diaz’s efforts but as is always the case when rolling with a black belt , the outcome generally is a foregone conclusion so I guess the image that came to me was consistent to the story line. They went and rolled for a further 10 minutes. Dave, not even breathing hard took off his Gi jacket and walked me down to the less public Grappling Area.
We spoke briefly about how my return to health had gone. I talked about the rolling the day before and Dave decided we would test out what I had learned. 10 minutes later I was gassed having fended off Daves multiple attempts to test my defence of the rear naked choke. Although I was pleased at my attempts it was noted that whilst my cardio continued to play catch up, my form would invariably get better as a matter of course. I also noticed that’s all I was thinking about. The heavy heart had lifted and once again I had dropped into the BJJ mindfulness mind set.
In between rolls we spoke about the history of Team Quest that I had recently listened to on the “Your Welcome” Podcast. I had been impressed by the life story of Nate Quarry amd how articulate, forthright and vulnerable the TUF 1 alumni had made himself in front of his former team mate Chael Sonnen. I discussed my plans, my blog and a want to structure my learning of BJJ in a manner that I could personally reverse engineer my flaws as I got more advanced in order to help facilitate Dave’s instruction. We rolled a few more times with some dude prancing around in our locality doing either Wing Chun or Kung Fu…. Not sure which. Either way he moved pretty well for a fat bloke and his front kick almost broke his own nose. It was surreal as anything I have experienced and mid roll I could see the other BJJ students filing in for their next class. To be run by Dave … now that’s cardio!
Dave wrapped it up and warned me not to accidentally on purpose walk into the female toilets again (I’m kidding… it was an accident the last two times. Its just hard to concentrate when I am gassed post roll with Dave). He remarked he was pleased with how it went for a first time back. I, as usual, was frustrated that I had not performed better. Part of the journey I guess. I ran into Diaz at the front desk. We discussed the possibility of rolling together and he seemed keen.
Training partner #1 : Mike Diaz
I changed back into my suit and walked to the train station. The black cloud slowly began to settle on me although it was not as black or thick. I have a way to go but I’m convinced this is the right way