EDITOR'S NOTE: Welcome to the athlete journal of Jess Papi. Jess is a blue belt at Scranton MMA and also pursuing her degree in exercise science. Read her entries every week for insights on competing, training, and juggling BJJ and life.


This week was definitely one of those weeks that I like to call “Hell Week." Projects, tests, and lab reports had me going crazy. The schedule at the academy still hasn’t changed and school work didn’t let up much, but I somehow manipulated time and made it to the gym a few days this week.


After barely training for weeks, my first day back consisted of a straight hour of intense muay Thai training. I worked the battle ropes, hit the bags, and did some pad work. It was the most I had done in weeks and I was sore in places I forgot even existed. It was definitely worth it though. Not training had me feeling like a slug, so I was excited to get back into it!

Breaking Muscle Shop


After my welcome-back butt kicking, I was chomping at the bit to get back to jiu jitsu. In the Saturday morning class, we went over some S mount techniques. The S mount is something I had already kind of known about, but never really used. It was nice to get a proper lesson on the position and the submissions I can hit from there.


Monday night’s class was all about the turtle defense. Dominic is a brown belt at my school and he usually teaches the Monday night classes. He’s about sixty years old and he could wipe the floor with just about anyone at the academy. The great thing about him is that his game is super old-school, but he’s so open to learning the new trends in jiu jitsu. He has an amazing turtle defense so I made sure to make mental notes of everything he showed us in class.


On Tuesday I taught a beginners class to all men. Sometimes men are little leery about learning how to fight from a girl, but this group was especially receptive and respectful. One of them even asked if he should call me sensei. We have a judo program at our school, and in judo the instructor is referred to as "sensei." The tradition has somewhat trickled into our jiu jitsu program. When I was asked this, I took a second to think. Usually the kids call me Sensei Jess, but having a student who is older than me call me that seemed odd. I told him he could just call me Jess. I’m not in this business for the title - I’m in it to learn jiu jitsu and help others learn it too.


On that same night we had competition training. I was almost tempted to go home and study for a test, but I decided to stay and help my teammates get ready for a competition they have coming up. They are always there for me and I needed to be there for them. If one person on a team of twenty people has a competition coming up, the whole team needs to be there and help that person get ready. It’s like an unspoken rule of jiu jitsu or something.


I must say, even though I’m not training for a competition myself, helping someone else get ready for one really gets you into fighting shape. I trained hard with my teammates that night. I was beat, but it felt so satisfying.


The rest of the week went on to be similar. I may have had a Hell Week at school, but my week at the academy was a good one. I taught a few classes and got in some more good training. I was reminded of how cool my instructors are and I was also reminded that I’m just a blue belt and I still have a thousand years of learning ahead of me. I’m so excited to just learn. I can’t wait until Thanksgiving break so I can actually get a full night of sleep. I’m sure I’ll be saying that in every journal entry until it happens (anxious laughter). Cheers, everyone!

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