Chapter 17:

Grappling Gauntlet: Cole

Insurmountable Odds

I took a small swig of my water before heading back onto the mats for the gauntlet that awaited me.

My first of six fights was against the newer and inexperienced girl. Since she was one of the few people I hadn’t been paired up with for drills, we were put against each other in sparring. I couldn’t allow myself to be relieved over the expected ease of this fight with the looming prospects of five more to go immediately after.

I need to conserve my stamina.

As soon as the captain started the timer, we began. The fights all started with both partners sitting in a fighting stance since there wasn’t enough room for everyone to fight from standing. Instantly, I laid back and held my legs up, forming an impromptu open guard.

Any time she attempted to pass my legs with her nonsensical footwork, desperately trying to get any advantage, I simply spun on my hips or used her movements against her, stalling out the clock. Amongst the spinning and guarding, I made sure to throw a few submissions for her to work out of as well as a couple sweeps when she made a mistake.

It wasn’t the nicest win but, unfortunately, my energy levels are too low to care. Despite my obnoxious and efficient strategy, I was still becoming fatigued quickly. The speed at which she moved, although inefficient and easily countered, still took a toll on me to keep up with.

While I went to grab another sip of my water, Quinn joined me on the side of the mats for the break.

“God your legs are so annoying, I couldn’t get through even once!” She sighed exasperated.

“Guard is my favorite position to be fair.” I replied, attempting to alleviate her frustration.

“So, do you have any tips for me, sensei?” She bowed to me jokingly as she continued, “I’m always working to improve!”

“How blunt do you want me to be?” I asked seriously, worried about hurting her feelings and burning bridges.

“Break me down completely so that I can build myself up even stronger than before!”

I sighed, collecting my thoughts to ensure I could give proper advice without sounding rude.

You asked for this.

“To start off, it is blatantly obvious that you’re inexperienced. Not only are essentially all of your movements wasting an abundance of energy, but you’re also easily frazzled by things you aren’t aware of.”

I looked closely at her while I ranted, and to my surprise, she seemed fully engaged with my critiques.

“Your footwork isn’t bad in isolation, but you have to follow-up on every movement. Jiujitsu isn’t just a single move but a constantly flowing fight. Due to your hesitance and insecurity, your strengths such as your nimbleness are being held back, causing your moves to seem clunky ninety percent of the time.”

After a moment of silence, she spoke up, seemingly having processed what I was saying.

“Interesting, so I need to work on transitions and just not overthink things?”

“Yes and no. Martial arts is as much a mental game as it is physical. Overthinking things isn’t always bad, but you need to moderate yourself and have good control. Right now, you should focus on finding what works for you and practice until it becomes second nature.”

“I see, I’ll keep that in mind!” She stood up and stretched, her tight sportwear highlighting her curves, forcing me to look away. “Thanks!”

I stood up as well, noticing that the group was coming back together for the second round of fighting.

My next partner was the captain of the club. Despite his status, I wasn’t too worried about sparring against him in jiujitsu. From what I had seen at the demonstration, it seemed as though his focus was primarily on Muay Thai, leaving his grappling with plenty to be desired.

He once again began the timer, offering a fist bump as the fight began. I returned his fist softly, beginning the fight.

As I did with Quinn, I once again threw up my open guard and prepared to stall and manipulate. Despite the two being close, the captain’s grappling style was completely different as he slowly and meticulously tried to break through my defenses.

Any time I adjusted or countered in a unique way, I could almost see the gears turning in his head, formulating his next move.

Contrary to Quinn’s strategy of shooting as many shots as possible with low odds of success, the captain seemed set on finding a single guaranteed win condition as if he were a computer algorithm.

In spite of the skill difference, I ended up using less energy against the captain than I did Quinn which was a relief. Although the captain was definitely better, forcing me to use more sweeps and complex defenses, his methodical approach left me much more breathing room to rest.

After three long minutes, the timer finally went off, allowing me to get a drink once more.

This time, I sat alone as everyone else talked around me about their recent fights and other miscellaneous topics. Despite not being directly involved in any conversations, I could overhear the captain and Quinn discussing their fights with me as if they were comparing notes for an upcoming exam.

When I rejoined the group for the third time, I was paired up with Lucas. Upon being grouped up, I could hear the captain and Quinn yelling under their breathes from their own sparring corner up until the matches began.

“Beat him up, Kyle!” and “Avenge us!” were popular phrases they repeated as we got settled.

Although I was mildly confused by the name Kyle being thrown around, I couldn’t care enough to ask.

“Since you’re new, let’s do some positional sparring from side control and mount.” I suggested as the round began.

“What’s that?”

“Well, because you aren’t too familiar with much outside of what we learned today, we can do some drills where we start in the positions we just learned and fight from there.” I explained simply, “The fight is determined once the person being held either escapes or taps out.”

“Alright, that sounds fair enough.” Lucas agreed, beginning in the dominant position.

We went a few rounds, mostly consisting of me exploiting a major weakness or mistake Lucas made, then helping him learn how to not repeat it again.

Although I was rusty, he was so inexperienced that even while I was going easy on him, he couldn’t take a single win from me.

Even so, he still made noticeable progress and improvements throughout our fight, making it well worth the effort.

The three-minute round ended in what seemed like no time at all, allowing me to take another drink and break.

Three down, three to go.

Miao Miao