Chapter 9

21 Oct

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Part 4: Contamination

The adult beginner class was not as sweet as I expected. First, my friend was promoted to it as well, as was Curry, and all of the white belt platoon. My promotion was cheapened by the fact that everyone who was my size, despite their inexperience, also received that same damn promotion. The beginner adult class is simply that; beginner techniques taught to adults. It was boring in the respect that I didn’t learn any new techniques, but humbling in the respect that everyone outside of Napoleon, Curry, and the white belt platoon overpowered me to death. My instructor said that weight and size are nothing to note in BJJ, but I found this to not be entirely true. Size can be countered, but you have to be extremely good, and even then, it can go to crap. I saw a white belt tap a blue belt, which made my mind explode; the white belt is made of pure muscle, a weightlifer and personal trainer by trade, while the blue belt is a man of about equal weight, but not entirely muscle.

We train the beginner moves that I perform flawlessly. Shoulder locks, rear naked chokes, elbow escape, and so on. Sparring is where I learn the most; I spar with blue belts to steal their techniques, and spar with the white belts to try them out (assuming I don’t get raped by extremely fit men). I’m not really learning anything from the instructor, but I’m progressing, which is good enough for me.

I notice an itchy patch on the bottom of my chin, but don’t really care. I train for a few more days, and just notice the patch is itchy and…well, weird. The texture is smooth, and it’s pink. I ignore it for another day, until I see the outer limits of the red spot turn crusty, while the innermost part turns white and soft. I have developed ring worm.

I begin to freak out to have caught such a disgusting disease. I go to the doctor the next week, but before I do, I ask my trainer if I should keep training. “Yea, it doesn’t really matter. You can train if you want, just put a bandaid on it or something.” My mom tells me ringworm is highly contagious, and that I shouldn’t spar. I go with my mom.

The doctor gives me a cream to get rid of the ringworm, and it goes away within 4 days. I was amazed at how fast it happened. My doctor asks a very peculiar question during the exam. “How often does your coach clean your mats?” I stopped and thought, and I never distinctly remember seeing him clean them. I assume that he must at some point, but I do notice lots of hair and tape left on mats from the day before, and most of that accumulates until he vacuums or sweeps.

I ask him this casually in a conversation, and he says, “Well, you see me sweeping and vacuuming at the beginning of every class.” I think of all the sweat that accumulates on the mats, and get very, very sick.

The next few months I shower, and shower HARD after each class. Then, I notice a few little dots on my knees. I disregard them as my skin being pissed off for whatever reason, and continue my daily routine. My knees become very tender, as a red rash spreads all over them; the dots remain. I continue to blow it off; I’ve seen worse that went away. The problem was that shorts I wore went exactly knee high, and would rub the raw red spots to produce the most intense pain a person could feel. I remember distinctly having to walk across campus, with my knees killing me. Eventually I don’t care if I look gay, I pull my pants up higher to give my knees a break.

I’m still blowing my knees off; obviously my pants are rubbing it, making it raw and red, which makes it hurt when my pants rub it, which makes it raw and red, forever. I blow them off until I notice the dots are beginning to form white heads, and that I have about one million of them across each knee. I freak out, both from embarressment, and freaking the hell out. I make a doctor appointment for the following week. I notice boils start popping up on other places too; my arms and hands.

The doctor looks at my knees and makes a sighing noise. “My my my.” This obviously is not a good sign. “This looks like classic staph infection. I need to take a sample.” She picks the biggest boil on my knee, and gets ready to pop it into a collection tube. This is one of the most single painful experiences in my life. It is raw and red to begin with, along with the fact that my pants have been rubbing these boils making them tender. She pushes on it, and it feels like she’s killing me. After a few painful, painful minutes and a lot of repositioning for better leverage, she pops out some pus, and sends it off to lab. A few days later she confirms it is staph, and gives me a cream and pills. I take both, and SLOWLY, it clears up. This was horrible, and life changing. I still, to this day, shower extensively after every practice section simply due to fear of getting staph.

I volunteer to start bleaching the mats with mops. By “I volunteer”, I mean my Mom says this at the next class. The instructor looks surprised and insulted. I don’t care, because I honestly don’t want that again. Everyone in the class eventually starts to help out, until everyone but the instructor helps to clean. The instructor still tells people to come to class with infections; I remember almost rolling with a guy when he said “I got staph on my legs, so watch out dude”. I told him I was going to spar someone else.


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