This is the first entry in the Masterskya Guest Author Series. This series places a spotlight on our students, guest instructors, friends, family and the greater Masterskya community. Come here for personal stories and essential insights learned along the journey that is a life with jiu-jitsu.
I woke up one sweaty summer afternoon with the sun in my eyes and I felt alone. I wondered why the last two years had seen a tornado rip through my mind and I felt unanchored– realized I had never actually felt like I was touching the ground.
I’ve spent countless nights chain smoking cigarettes until late morning hours, writing poetry and listening to Billie Holiday; I lost friends faster than I could make them, I was always being told I was too intense. All at once the idea of MMA struck me (pun intended) and I decided that I was someone who’d benefit greatly from learning how to fight. I did extensive reading on MMA and understood that I’d need to become competent in some sort of grappling art which led me to a Brazilian jiu jitsu gym in North Jersey one July afternoon. I knew nothing about it but what I did know was that being around men made me deeply uncomfortable; in fact, nothing has ever made me more uncomfortable than being around men.
Starting jiu jitsu was exposure therapy x1000; I wasn’t just around men, they were sitting on me and trying to choke me. A few months after that and it was a man who came up to me while I was on someone’s back and helped me finish an RNC, a man who showed me how to retain mount and go for an Americana, a man who told me to never fall over and always stay on top.
I spent a few months at that first gym and then I had to leave; my family decided to leave the country and sell their home and I wasn’t going with them. I was so utterly crushed that I had to leave the place that gave me something I never knew I needed; and now I needed it.
I have always felt several degrees removed from the world, like there’s a thin film between my eyes and everything else. When I want to be kind to myself I describe it as having a rich internal life; and there’s nothing wrong with that except my mind is so active that I bypass living. Training Brazilian jiu jitsu is so incredibly physical that it basically gives my head a break and I’m only fixated on what’s happening to me and right in front of me. It gives me some respite from myself– I am oriented outwards.
So I moved to Brooklyn, back to my mother’s home I had left when I was 15. You know that feeling when you stop doing something for a while you get all of this anxiety about returning to it? I spent three weeks in Brooklyn looking for a school and even after settling on this one in Bushwick, Masterskya, I just couldn’t go. I had spent so much mental energy on starting jiu jitsu in the first place, getting comfortable in such a male dominated environment, and now I had to start all over again.
I did, though, and when I walked in that first day (late) I felt comfortable. The instructor, Alex, was incredibly welcoming, and so were all the students– there were also quite a few more women students than I expected which I was over the moon about. And I have been over the moon here. I feel lucky that I can safely and healthily be my super competitive self (and even be appreciated for it).
The classes are amazing, my drilling and rolling partners give me variety and intensity, and now that I think about it, my whole time at this school has kind of been one giant roll; six months is really like six minutes with Maria, we stand in front of each other knowing we’ll meet, and it might be hard and it might hurt but as soon as the bell rings we’re so much better for it.
Petra Moskowitz // @not.roxy (click here)