After Sam finished the demonstration, Cole and I returned to our corner of the mat and began working once again. To begin, I pulled him into my guard and did the same stance breaking motion we had done in the previous move. This time, in response, Cole overcompensated by leaning backwards and setting me up for the hip bump sweep.
I followed his lean, posting myself up with one arm and lifting my hips off the mat into his. I used my free arm to stop him from posting behind himself and, with the help of his off-balanced posture, I was able to knock him over into a position called mount.
“Didn’t even need my help that time,” Cole nodded at me approvingly.
Although I knew it was a drill where he let me sweep him, it still felt invigorating to actually do it right, especially on my first try. After resetting, I worked up the confidence to try talking to him again now that I knew roughly how to do the move.
“So… How long have you been doing jiujitsu for?” I asked shakily, holding myself up mid throw.
Although he narrowed his eyes at me, he still responded to my questions and held a conversation, giving me little tips along the way.
“I’ve been doing this stuff on and off for about a decade.”
“That’s cool, you’re really good so I figured!” I responded enthusiastically while resetting to guard. “I’ve done all sorts of sports and whatnot in the past, but this is my first experience in the world of martial arts. My dad would never let me do anything so dangerous before.”
“It’s actually quite safe,” Cole replied before having his face smashed into my chest. “Especially when it comes to jiujitsu, knowing how to properly defend yourself and deescalate a situation can save your life. Plus, the training is almost always super regulated.”
I could tell from the more we talked that Cole truly had a passion for martial arts which was growing on me as well. One question kept nagging at me though: an inconsistency in his story. As soon as we switched positions, I took my shot.
“So, do you mind if I ask a more personal question?”
“Depends, what is it?” He let out a small sigh as he spoke.
“It’s obvious that you care for martial arts and have been doing it for a long time, so, if you don’t mind me asking, how come your body is, well, so skinny?” Towards the end of my question, I began stumbling over my words nervously, worried about his reaction.
“No offense, it’s just that my mental image of a professional martial artist is muscular and fit, not to say you don’t look good or anything, but…” I trailed off as Cole glared at me.
“Stop talking.” Cole began, his tone reminding me of being scolded by my parents. “I quit all athletic activity a year ago after I got into a minor car accident.”
“Kinda hard to triangle someone with a leg cast,” he took a long sigh before continuing. “Even before I was forced to quit, I wasn’t super muscular or anything. I was lean and flexible, I never did any weight training or anything outside of martial arts, I just trained in the gym.”
At this point his moves were sluggish at best. Although he was still drilling the technique, his mind was obviously elsewhere.
“I could’ve gotten back into martial arts before now, or even done some small workouts to keep myself in shape, but I just couldn’t find the motivation, y’know?” He looked up at me, making eye contact. “That’s just how life works I guess.”
The sad smile and look in his eyes as he finished talking were unlike any I had ever seen. Even I could tell there was more going on, but I didn’t have the heart to ask. The small bits and pieces he was already sharing were hard enough to swallow.
“I don’t even know why I’m talking about this now,” he looked up at the ceiling, collecting his thoughts. After taking one last deep breath, he looked back at me, the sad look in his eyes completely gone. “Let’s finish out the rest of this class, shall we?”
Before I had a chance to answer I was thrown suddenly on my back. His distracted movements from while he was recounting his story almost made me forget how good he was at jiujitsu. The sudden thought of how good he must have been at his prime sent chills down my spine.
Since this class was the taster session, the MMA club decided to split the two-hour window into an hour of grappling and an hour of Muay Thai. The jiujitsu class ended without much else eventful happening.
The last movement the captain showed was how to connect the two moves we had already done, adding a few extra tips and tricks to keep in mind. After a small amount of additional practice, we all had a water break and regrouped on the mats where the club had gathered the extra gloves I had seen Madison cleaning before the class.
As I looked around the group that began to form in the center of the mat, I realized that Cole was nowhere to be found. I quickly excused myself and darted out of the room, forgetting to even put my shoes back on.
As I exited the room and turned down the long hallway, I spotted a familiarly skinny figure trudging away slowly.
“Hey!” I yelled while waving, picking up my pace to catch up.
The figured turned towards me and visibly deflated upon seeing me coming.
“What do you want?” Cole asked, sounding weirdly annoyed.
“Oh um, were you leaving?”
“Yes, I was. Shouldn’t you get back to the class?”
Cole’s responses were dry, giving me very little to go off of conversationally.
“I won’t pry into why you’re leaving, especially after you opened up to me duri-“ I started before being abruptly cut off.
“I’m leaving because I’m too physically weak to do Muay Thai, especially following a one-hour jiujitsu session. If someone lands a lucky punch on me, I’d rather not go back to the hospital.”
Cole wiped his hand across his face, obviously getting more annoyed with the situation.
“Oh yeah, that’s true.” I laughed awkwardly to myself before falling into a deafening silence.
“Well if that’s all the-“ Cole began turning away to leave, causing me to reflexively grab his shoulder.
“Wait! Just one more thing!”
Cole grimaced, although I’m unsure at whether it was from my awkwardness or from how I pulled on his shoulder.
“Fine, what?” At this point he looked exasperated with me, but I really needed to ask one last question.
“What’s your number?” I asked firmly, looking him dead in the eyes.
For a moment he looked taken aback before regaining his composure.
“Why do you want it?” He asked, breaking eye contact with me.
“Obviously if we’re going to be friends, I need your number!” I announced proudly, “on top of that, I need to know which socials and classes you’ll be going to for MMA so I can be sure to attend.”
Cole froze for a moment before breathing out a long sigh and turning back around. Just as I thought he was going to leave, he held his arm backwards, his phone in hand displaying his number.
“Don’t make me regret this, Lucas.” He said quietly, still facing the door to leave.
After putting in his number, I said goodbye and jogged back to the clubroom, hoping to have not missed much of the Muay Thai class.