My Jiu-Jitsu Journey: Part One

Krista Stryker and Rigan Machado

Many of you may know this, but I didn’t start getting into fitness until the end of college. Since then, I’ve constantly pushed the limits of what I previously believed was possible for my talent and ability level. Along the way, I’ve transformed from someone who hated exercise and couldn’t do a single push-up to having “athlete” become a core part of my identity.

It’s been quite the journey so far. I started with calisthenics and HIIT workouts, falling in love with all that we can do with our own bodyweight. To keep challenging myself, I took up handstands, boxing, and, most recently, martial arts. I’m proud of all I’ve achieved. None of it has come easy to me. More importantly, I’m proud of the athlete — and person — I’ve become along the way.

Still, I’ve always had the nagging feeling that I’m nowhere near the height of my potential. Since I didn’t grow up as an athlete, I never had the chance to compete in any formal way, and I’ve always regretted this. In another life, maybe I could have gone to the Olympics (in what? I’m not sure. But that feeling is always there).

Of course, there’s no use dwelling on a past that didn’t happen. The sooner we accept our reality, the sooner we can create a future we’re excited about. As Carl Rogers wrote in On Becoming a Person:

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I change.”

Also, competition isn’t everything. You don’t have to compete to be great, although the lessons learned through competition can be an important part of the journey. Not just to prove yourself to others. More importantly, competition can give you a chance to prove to yourself just how far you can go.

It’s about self-mastery, growth, and reaching for our potential. You know, all those things I’m just a tiny bit obsessed with.

My Next Challenge: Jiu-Jitsu

I’ve been itching to compete and take up a new sport for a while. I had my first boxing match right before Covid, and, at one point, I thought I’d work my way up the amateur — and even possibly, pro — boxing rank. But the reality is that women’s boxing isn’t overly popular. It was hard to find matches, and I didn’t see much of a future there.

Like it did for many people, Covid forced me to reflect on my life and decide what I really wanted to do with my short time on this earth. I realized my heart just wasn’t in boxing. So I kept looking and sampling different sports. I tried kickboxing, karate, and taekwondo. I even toyed with the idea of competing in track and field events. I never did track in high school and love sprinting and jumping (I may still do this… we’ll see).

In my pursuit of finding a sport that I wanted to stick with, I started training jiu-jitsu. I’ll be honest; I was reluctant at first. I didn’t grow up wrestling like many boys did and didn’t get the appeal of grappling. It took me a while, but I fell in love with it. I started two months ago,  and it’s now all I can think about. I want to train all the time. And I want to see just how far I can go in the sport.

Why jiu-jitsu? A few reasons…

  • There are lots of opportunities to compete as an adult (and, yes, also as a female).
  • In the six weeks since I’ve been training, I’ve shown an aptitude for it. My strength, flexibility, and body awareness that I’ve gained from training other sports transfer over well. I’m missing the technical knowledge, but that, I know I can learn.
  • I really love it.

Going All In

I love having goals. I love pushing for my highest potential and encouraging others to do the same, which is why I’m so excited about this journey. I’ve needed something like this for a while, and after a few years of searching, I finally feel like I’ve found the right fit.

So far, everything has fallen into place. I started training six weeks ago under Rigan Machado, one of the royalties of the sport. If you know jiu-jitsu at all, you know the Machados and their cousins, the Gracies. I still pinch myself that I can call Rigan my coach. He really is one of the best.

I’m starting as a white belt, a true beginner in every way. I have a lot to learn, but I’m getting better. I do my best to be an empty cup, to leave my ego at the side of the mat, and just soak up all the knowledge the best I can.

My goal? To see just how far I can go in the sport. I need to build up my technical skillset first, but when I do, I plan to compete as soon as possible. I don’t know where it will lead, but I’ll give it everything I’ve got. I’ll share my journey — and the lessons I learn — along the way.

I’m excited to see how my journey goes. More importantly, I hope to inspire you that it’s never too late to go after your dreams.

What can you do tomorrow if you give something your all today? You’ll never know if you don’t try. It’s a risk, yes — but one well worth taking.

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