“Oh, uh, I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that,” I say. “What was your question again?”
They look upon my seemingly magical abilities in amazement, hanging on every word I’m saying. One guy even pantomimes my movements as I hastily play out the possibilities and implications of the moves I’m teaching them. I hope he doesn’t catch the quick cringe on my face. Teaching. Not even sure that’s the right word for it anymore. Partly out of necessity, I’ve taken on an increased role teaching the BJJ club here. Their need for a teacher (when the usual guy isn’t there) has coupled with my need to maintain my training in some very awkward arranged marriage.
And perhaps even more scarily, next year, with the old teacher moving on to bigger and better things on the West Coast, I will have inherited his kingdom. Sometimes, I feel bad for them. That they don’t know that I’m probably not as good as my tattered, three-year-old blue belt would indicate. Well, the better ones might. Part of me tries to rationalize, to protect my ego. I tell myself that Tim took over the UCLA program as a blue belt too, and look how he ended up. Well, that’s true and all, but Tim made everything look so easy, so effortless, so confident in his abilities. He still trained at Wander’s while teaching. Nothing about jiu-jitsu was really easy or intuitive for me, and yet, in a few months, I will more or less be responsible for the learning of a sizable group of people. Teaching them everything I know, all the while not really learning anything substantive myself.
I lied. I caught what they said. In the brief time it takes them to repeat the question, my mind is speeding at 100 miles an hour. Eventually, I fumble an answer while feeling like a charlatan on the inside. How did Tim always know the right thing to say? I guess there’s some comfort in that our forefathers pretty much created the art through experimentation; they didn’t always know what they were doing. But sometimes, I feel like for their growth, for their sake, I shouldn’t be doing this.
Today is one of those days.