My first Jiu-Jitsu class.


The dojo is musty, a diverse mix of odors from 20 students thicken the air. I lay on my back on the mat, staring up at a man who slaps his hands on his thighs like a primate. Next to me, a groan reminds me of a dying man. I realize this primate standing over me will try to kill me.

Beep. The clock starts. He stretches his jaw wide, yellow fangs piercing the air - so it seems. I brace myself. I’m not prepared for this. Life didn’t teach me how to wrestle with someone. But at least instinctually I’m trained at pushing people away.

He bats my legs to the side, his knee pancakes them to the floor, and he hurls his chest onto mine. We are jaw against jaw, bone grinding against bone. Soon his forearm presses against my neck.

His arm hair seems to elongate to furry inches in length, until it curls between my lips. Repulsed, with all my might I push him away. He flies back, but like a monkey springs right back onto me. Now mounted on top, sitting on my stomach.

I’m tired. He too gasps for air. Just survive the five minutes, that’s the goal.

Moments later after tussling and turning, my arm is wedged between his legs. He gets ahold of my wrist. Armbar, I think without understanding what that means.

I yank my arm, yank again. Time is close. And on the third yank, it skids out. BEEP. Sighing out, I did it. The primate didn’t bite any body parts off.

We slap hands and sit with the class.

Before exiting, I pulled him to the side and asked his name. Cody.

Driving home, I realized, although the primate was trying to kill me, even with his erratic hoots and howls and claps and slaps, the whole time -- I trusted Cody not to.