Being choked unconscious by a 220 pound Jiu-Jitsu black belt hits different on mushrooms
~The following is a short excerpt from a forthcoming nonfiction book. The subject of which is, a year on the road training Jiu-Jitsu across all of North America. ~
It was my first time on the east coast of Canada. Saint John, New Brunswick. I was on my back. The third degree black belt was controlling my ankles. I wasn’t sure if he was going to try to pass to the left or to the right. I blinked my eyes. He seemed to be hesitating, waiting for me to make a move. He smiled at me, “It’s all right,” he said. I felt other eyes on me. I blinked. I wasn’t sure why but I felt a sense of embarrassment. The feeling a high school student has when woken up from a mid-class nap.
Had I been asleep? I’d been dreaming a lucid dream. A dream more real than reality. And yet, here and now, with all these eyes on me, I couldn’t for the life of me recall any of the details of that dream, that reality. I felt I’d lived an entire lifetime inside of that dream, that reality. One with deep and meaningful relationships, with joy and pain and recalled memories. As soon as I was back in this reality, that reality and every image, every memory evaporated.
And I was in a padded room somewhere with a gray bearded man who was wearing a tattered black belt. He was holding up my feet, trying to get blood to my brain.
Through the cloud of the evaporated lifetime that I had lived, this moment and the last thing I remembered in this padded reality linked together. That last memory was this,
“Taaa…” my lips had moved but no audible sound had escaped. The white cloth of his gi was wrapped so tightly around my throat that there was no air to push the words out into the world. Before that unheard sound there was an immense struggle, and shortly after there was a pristine sense of peace. The peace a monk spends their life in search of. As quickly as that peace came, it was gone. The lead instructor walked away. I sat now next to the 220 pound man who had choked me into nirvana.
“Oh, I’m so sorry.” He said, his eyes looking down.
“Don’t be.” I said. Happy that my voice was still there. “I need to be more mature, and when my hands aren’t free, learn how to tap with my foot. My hands weren’t free. I tried to say tap, but there was no air to form the words.”
“You were fighting your way out of it pretty good there, and I thought why isn’t he tapping. Then I looked and thought oh shit! I’m sorry.”
“Honestly, don’t be. One of the reasons I do Jiu-Jitsu is to find out what is on the other side of consciousness, so I thank you. I just had a magnificent journey through the cosmos.”
“Oh geez. I’ve never put someone out like that before.”
“No? Well, you seem to be pretty good at it for your first time.” I smiled
“Oh geez. I’m sorry.”
“Would you like to keep rolling?” I asked.
“Oh no.” He said, “I’m done. I feel bad.”
It’s tough to know exactly what ‘bad’ feels like. Like you’ve done something you weren’t supposed to, like the piercing cold of guilt, like the heavy weight of shame. He had just a hint of shame in his lowered eyes, but I couldn’t figure out why. He was a kind and gentle man capable of murder. He was a strong man. A well-trained man. One who, perhaps, and I’m only guessing, hadn’t given much thought to the prowess of his own honed destructiveness. Now sitting next to me, he couldn’t seem to look away from it, not just his capacity to hurt or kill another human, but having in a sense done so. Having a living sentient being go limp at the force of his hands.
As I sat across from him I couldn’t help being filled with a sense of joy and adoration. I couldn’t help but think that we both learned something magical about ourselves, though neither of us seemed to be able to define what that was on our own. And with that, the class ended and I put another tally mark on my goal of wanting to be submitted 1,000 times on this year-long journey through Jiu-Jitsu across North America.
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