Jack stood naked in the shower as he eyed the cold water tap. Even though he had gotten used to taking cold showers, there was still a moment of pause beforehand to consider the alternative. There was always a reason to opt for the comfort of a nice warm shower instead.
He looked down on his bare chest at the developing material burn marks. It had been a while since he had seen them… in fact, it had been a while since there had been cause for them. It had been three months since he had set foot in the gym, but it wasn’t the return had been the hardest part. It had been the mental battle to get himself there that had been the hardest part.
What would they think? How would he feel? What would be expected of him? But in the end, there were no judging questions. The only person with expectations of him was himself… but the mat would soon sort that out.
He had bumped into his training partner as they crossed each other on the stairs to the change rooms. Louis was a lanky but strong New Zealander who had been doing brazilian jiu jitsu for several years. While nice enough of a guy, he was also a 4-stripe brown belt, which should speak enough about his skill on the mat.
“Hey Jack, it’s good to see you. Where’ve you been?” asked Louis.
“I… I hibernate in summer?” Jack stammered back. Louis laughed. The ice had been broken.
As the class moved from warm-up to drilling and into free-rolling he realised how unfit the summer of inactivity had made him. He would have to work on that. He remembered thinking it would be nice to get a submission on his first day back, but by the time he was one-minute into his first five-minute round his objective had quickly moved to “remember how to defend”. He had forgotten what it had felt like for someone to be lying on top of him.
By the end of the class it had dawned on him that he was back on the long journey of BJJ… and that he was far closer to the start than at the end. But at least he was back on the road. Louis had given him a thumbs-up on the way out of the gym, “Don’t be a stranger, OK?”
Back in his shower cubicle at home Jack clasped both hands behind his neck and looked upward, giving himself a stretch. The developing soreness foretold tomorrow’s pain. He let out a sigh of relief as he reached for the cold water tap and turned it on.