Pajama Wrestling — From Monster Mash to Pan Am Gold

Since starting this blog, I’ve tried to keep it general interest, to bring in personal experience only insofar as I consider the subjective perspective more intellectually honest than any pretense of objectivity.  I’ve avoided posts that are journal-like, etc. This is a departure from that. It’s, first and foremost, for myself, a page where I can chronicle my journey through Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (“BJJ”).

I started this sport seventeen months ago at an absurdly old age. Last week I won a gold medal at the 2011 Pan American Championships, the world’s biggest BJJ tournament, with more than 3000 fighters from all over the world. When I told a friend, she asked, “You’ll have to explain jiu-jitsu to me sometime. [I can practically hear your brain churning through all the possible propositions.] Seriously though, I am curious; does the blue belt only go with white pajamas or does it also dress up that pair of chinos you only wear on special occasions?  Yes, mocking your (greatest?) achievements…”

For the record, as nice as it is to be the best know-nothing superheavy old fart in the world for a week or so, I would normally think the only mockery/insult is in calling a sports medal—even one in pajama wrestling–my greatest achievement. I keep telling myself, “I am not a jock! I am not a jock! I am a human being!” [For correct intonation, see Elephant Man.] And yet I’m completely addicted to BJJ in a way that almost explains the slightly-uncomfortable acronym. (Tell a non-jiu-jitsu friend that you do BJJ six nights a week, and you always get a raised eyebrow and a “Do I want to hear this?” sort of look.)

Sex and fighting, that’s what it’s all about for the manly man, right? Add one more element, creating–sex, fighting and creating–and you have the sophisticated manly man. It’s still a shock to realize that the fighting is not secondary. But that’s because of the nature of BJJ. It doesn’t just tap in to the primal side of us that has been wishful-thinking-pretended-away by modern society, it also unifies the mind and body unlike any sport I’ve ever done.

Jiu-jitsu is basically submission wrestling–no punches or kicks, but you fight until the other person “taps” (i.e., submits), using mostly joint locks and chokes. By tapping in a tournament setting, one acknowledges that one is a suboptimal specimen of macho-ness. Generally, we strangle each other—in the words of wikipedia, “Chokes and strangles (commonly but somewhat incorrectly referred to as “air chokes” and “blood chokes” respectively) are a common form of submission. Chokes involve constriction of the windpipe (causing asphyxia.) Strangles involve constriction of the carotid artery (causing ischemia)”–and try to make each other’s elbows, shoulders, knees, etc., move in the opposite direction from the way they were designed to move. Good clean fun, and as you get better it becomes more and more like chess with the body. But it’s even more than that, more than just mental and physical working in harmony. There’s also a growth component, some might call it spiritual. Like writing, at some point your own personality starts to interfere with improvement, and if you want to improve you need to fix your  flaws first, something that is always a slow process. In fact, the entire learning curve in pajama wrestling is astoundingly slow. I have never felt as stupid as when my heart rate is 180 and I’m trying to figure out a counter and watching my body ignore me, do its own thing, often the wrong thing. I just wish I’d discovered it at a younger age.

Anyway, this post is a work in progress. I’m going to keep updating it, adding videos, etc.  And, as I said, it’s primarily a personal log, but as with certain questions I get from time to time about training and fitness, I’ve had enough interest from other people that I’m not saving it as a “private” storehouse of fight videos.

Oh, and I know I have at least a few readers in Vancouver. If you’re here, we are lucky enough to have one of the best clubs in all of North America, perhaps anywhere, right here in North Vancouver. North Van BJJ sent a team of 14 people to the Pan Am Championships, and we came back with eight medals, including four golds. I don’t know any small independent club anywhere in the world that had that sort of results. North Shore Outlook did an article on NVBJJ’s spectacular Pan Am results here.


Hmm, it looks like my website can’t handle too many YouTube embeds on one page, so I’ll keep this to a compilation from the BC Championships and the 2011 Pan Am quarter, semi, and finals.

Monster-mash compilation by Jeff Meszaros at NVBJJ from the BC Championships (5 March 2011):


2011 Pan American Championship Quarterfinal fight:


2011 Pan American Championship Semifinal fight:


2011 Pan American Championship Final fight:


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