On the train, riding out of downtown toward my martial arts studio, I thought about how much I love this city.
I love the blunt, graffiti-ed back sides of buildings against the train tracks.
I love the way the clouds hang over the bridges.
I love the crowds on the train.
I love the familiar smell of my martial arts studio.
For the first time, waiting for class to start, I looked around the studio and felt at home.
It isn't the same as my Universe City studio. That was my introduction to martial arts, and it cannot be replaced. I feel a fierce loyalty to the people there that goes beyond just a gym. And there is something special about it, too: the kung fu bow when you step onto the floor and when you leave, the counting in unison, the instant focus when the instructor starts talking, the cheering each other on, the way the whole class yells responses. ("Ready?" "READY!")
But this one is starting to feel like me, too, in a different way. This gym is younger, on the whole, and more casual, and the people in it go out to watch fights together. They have a permanent table at the Mexican restaurant around the corner. They feel like people I might end up keeping as friends outside the world of martial arts.
BJJ class was good, and afterwards we lined up again. We only really line up at the end of class when there is something to be given out - a belt, a stripe, something, and I look forward to seeing who gets something. Someday I even hope it will be me! (Okay, it was me a few weeks ago when I got promoted to the non-beginner class in bjj. Someday I hope it will be me again!)
Okay, it was me.
Remember how I was all embarrassed when I got student of the month in Universe City?
I am student of the month here now, and I feel almost more embarrassed. Student of the month is for kiiiids. Give it to a kiiiiid.
And it feels a little excessive to be student of the month in two studios in two different cities, albeit two years apart.
At the same time, as I tried to explain to my roommate, I work hard at martial arts. It's kind of my thing. I am there every single time I am allowed to be. School may have always come easily to me. You may find me surfing the internet on the weekend when I should be cleaning the house. But when I go to fight, I am all focus. I watch carefully and I imitate and I practice and I get better. I am that annoying person who shushes other students when they try to keep talking over the instructor, who dances around cheering people on at the end of class when we are all exhausted, who is told to start at the second step, or the third step, because I clearly need to work harder.
It's nice to have other people recognize how hard you work. Apparently both the stand up and jiu jitsu coaches agreed.
I got a bumper sticker, and a set of patches to put on my gi, and there is a plaque in the studio with my picture on it.
All of this gave me the courage to ask a coach to roll with me. I haven't dared before, because no one looked available, but I really wanted to try it, so I finally braved it, and it was so fun! She went easy on me, of course, but I wasn't instantly defeated. It was fantastic. I love this stuff.