The following is a guest article written and contributed by Patricia Murphy, who trains out of Soca BJJ.
I did not come to jiu-jitsu a conventional way. It was not to lose weight, nor from watching the UFC. My husband began doing jiu-jitsu and convinced me to come to the other workout classes the gym offered. However, I would always watch the men and women roll as I struggled through my exercises to try to keep my mind off the muscles that burned. The mats called to me in a hushed tone. I listened to the silence that went on out there. The quiet panting of breaths and the small taps of a body part hitting the soft surface. The stillness of the sounds only interrupted when the professor yelled out a pointer. Then it would return to its meditative flow. I could see why people liked it, but thought I would never try… until a couple of months after a turning point in my life.
I had been working out with Samantha Freitas for a couple of months at Soca BJJ when I found out my husband and I were expecting our second child. I can still see her face when I told her I was pregnant. She then told her husband, Alexandre “Soca” Freitas, who was just as happy for my husband and me. I knew then what a “gym family” was.
Five months later we would receive the three words, “I’m so sorry” from our doctor as she glided the doppler over my perfect round belly. Our gym family was just as heartbroken as we were. After doctors’ appointments, hospital visits, surgery, and more hospital visits, I was finally cleared to go back to working out. It was at a Christmas party where they convinced me to come to an intro class. I thought I was just going to learn BJJ, but what I gained was so much more.
I barely looked up from the mats when I first came back to the gym. I was underweight, grey, and devastated. I loathed my body entirely and felt it had betrayed me after the loss of my son. After a few classes, I began learning my first lesson in my journey to healing: Forgiveness.
I was brand new and didn’t know anything. The only thing I did instinctually was to try and protect my body — guard it against the arms that slithered around my lapel to try and choke me. Keep my arms in as people swung their legs around to bring my arms back into a position that could break them. In trying to protect my body, I learned to forgive my anatomy and what I went through. I reconnected to the muscles and bones I loathed so much. In defending I revived a love for myself I never knew existed.
After forgiveness came trust in others.
I did not trust other humans after the loss. How could I? How could the doctors not know something was wrong? How could they not hear my concerns when I told them I had not felt him move for a while? This then bled out to all people. Jiu-jitsu taught me to have confidence in people again. I only wanted to work with my trainer, Sam. She is a black belt, a four-time IBJJF World Master Champion, and she knew me. I would not even go into an intro class until I knew she was the one who would teach me. Then it came time for me to roll with others. I was hesitant and nervous, but too scared to say no. I was forced to count on my training partners. There was a silent agreement: I won’t hurt you and you won’t hurt me. We were not trying to kill each other, just practicing. As the classes went on, my fear went away and trust came back. My training partners taught me things won’t always work out.
As I became more comfortable in my movements, I would try what I had learned. A brand new white belt is a mouse against a lion to any of the colors (T-Rex for black belts). I would think I had the perfect set up for a move, and before I knew it, I was twisted up like a pretzel tapping on their shoulders while I struggled to breathe. I would become frustrated and annoyed. The move just didn’t work out. But that doesn’t mean I stop trying. I don’t just stop showing up for training. I don’t throw away my barely broken-in white belt because I failed to execute the submission. It’s how life is; sometimes things just don’t work out. Sometimes you will never know why they didn’t or how they didn’t — they just didn’t. The important thing is that you never stop trying and you always show up, because one day it will work out better than you could have ever planned.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu has done more for me in the past eight months than any amount of therapy or support groups. I learned forgiveness, trust, and acceptance. It taught me life is going to put you in some crappy positions and your job is to simply find space and a way out. The people at Soca BJJ located in Wantagh, NY showed me support no one else could provide. I am not blind to the fact that my son’s death will always be a sad part of my story. However, I am grateful his loss brought me onto the mats that used to call to me softly even before he was here.