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Grounded Roots with Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

Introducing Kayla Arjona-Rodrigeuz. This is our second installment of the Grounded Roots Series, where we begin to take a look at Kayla's journey from white to black belt. We begin at month two, taking inventory, and exploring where we are going.


Ben Van Doren: Let’s start with a quick Jiu Jitsu intro. I know you wrestled a little bit in high school. I think for a year. So you had some grappling experience. You knew what it was about.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez : Yes and no, did it for one year in high school, my senior year. I was the 103 pounder. I honestly did it more to stay in shape for track because I ran cross country and track, and I was planning to play in college in the fall. So, I knew I wanted to stay in shape and I didn't like basketball, so I wrestled. It was really difficult for me to catch on when we were going live, I honestly never understood what we were doing. The solo drills I got pretty good at, and just learning the movement I got pretty decent at, but that was really it. I wasn't very good. I didn't really take it very seriously. It was an opportunity to get in shape. So yeah, I have the year down my belt, but I don't know if it really counts or anything.

Ben Van Doren: I think it shows in the gym. With that wrestling experience, you still decided to start Jiu Jitsu.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: I decided to start Jiu Jitsu for different reasons, not because I felt like I had experience or anything . When I was wrestling, that is experience that does transfer over and I shouldn't discount that. But I remember when I was grappling, I would just get turned on my head. I didn't know how to control anything. I didn't know how to grab onto anybody. It was like a deer in headlights kind of feeling all the time. That's how I felt in high school.

Ben Van Doren: Did you find that fun, or did you not? Did you not like that experience?

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: No, I actually hated it. I really hated it. It wasn't fun. I always got beat up, and by the middle schoolers too, because I was so small. I didn't really wrestle with the high schoolers. Just one high school guy was small, like me, but he was really good. He went to state, he placed in state, so he was not wrestling with me. So I mostly wrestled with the middle schoolers and they literally, they turned me upside down. I had no idea what was going on the entire time.

Ben Van Doren: Sarting wrestling as a senior is a tall order.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: Yeah, and it was just super humiliating. I mean, it was fun. I always said that wrestling was the hardest sport I've ever done and I do like that I did it. I think that I learned some valuable things, athletically. I guess I enjoyed it in retrospect, I always respected the sport, but I didn't really enjoy the live wrestling part. It was very scary for sure.

Ben Van Doren: So there's automatically this roadblock to starting Jiu Jitsu. What made you want to start and overcome that?

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: So, Jiu Jitsu is a really long process for me. I started learning about it. Well, I started learning about it with one of my friends, he's Brazilian and he did Jiu Jitsu, and I lived in Kalamazoo when I went to Western. He always talked about how fun it was and I thought that was cool. So I kind of got to know it a little bit through his eyes. I never thought to actually join though, and then going to 2020, I started listening to podcasts more and my favorite podcasters are Joe Rogan and Jocko. They are big Jiu Jitsu guys, and they weren't talking about just the sport itself, but just how it transforms your life, how it brought this mental stability. You have to learn, you have to learn how to be patient and see the situation from like I don't know, you develop this hindsight. I guess that you don't really have if you don't grapple, or do other hard things. So the more I heard about it, the more I thought, Wow, this sounds really fun. It's enticing. It sounds like something I've never done before. Yes, I wrestled, but I don't ever count that experience because I was just so bad at it. I don't feel like I learned any technique, and then also to learn the fact that, you know, one of the most powerful positions in Jiu Jitsu is when you're on your back and you have somebody between your legs. As a woman that really resonated with me because there's a lot of evil in the world.

One of my biggest fears is always being attacked when I'm out running. Especially in new cities, and you hear about it all the time. When I was at Western we had seminars every single summer, to make sure that when you go out and run by yourself, you have protection This, that, and the other and we've always heard stories. So that was one of my fears was to be attacked and not know what to do. So that empowerment that it gives me as a woman. Knowing Jiu Jitsu, I think really pushed me forward, and then also to have my fiance Miguel loving Jiu Jitsu and talking about it all the time, that really pushed me forward too. So, I started learning about it more and definitely in 2020. And then I started going to gyms in 2021, but not taking it seriously because I couldn't afford the gym. So I just kind of went to see what it was about. I did a couple of free trials, and then finally in 2023, this year we were able to afford a dual membership. The closest one to me happened to be Deep Blue and so I started going and I loved it.

Ben Van Doren: Cool. It's interesting because when I started Jiu Jitsu, this is over 10 years ago, the only reason people started Jiu Jitsu was because of MMA, they watched MMA.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: Yeah.

Ben Van Doren: They either wanted to fight MMA or at least that was the hook. That was what pulled them in and shaped Jiu Jitsu culture for a long time. It was attracting a certain type of person who wanted a certain type of thing. Now Jiu Jitsu has its own social media podcast ecosystem. I think pulls in people for different reasons.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: I think Jocko specifically, his demeanor and his outlook on business, family, and life. I want to be that way, because he's such a natural leader. And he talks a lot about how Jiu Jitsu helps complement that lifestyle. So, I think that mentality, population of people that have that mentality, I think that's great. I think starting Jiu Jitsu is great, because it's like paving the path for other great people in society. I feel like that's what it does. It makes you a great person in society because it teaches you so many valuable lessons.

Ben Van Doren: Yeah, that's the challenge. I think about this a lot as a coach. That's why I do it, you know, in terms of coaching, but how do you relay that to people who aren't training? If you've never trained a martial art before, it’s a big commitment. It's money, it's time, it's energy. And you don't really know what the benefits are unless you just get going. So, how do you bridge that gap with people?

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: I know, I feel that I'm constantly inviting my friends all the time. I'm trying to get somebody to go with me, but not a lot of people want to go with me. So, I'm also trying to learn how to sell the sport without selling the sport. You know what I mean? Because I'm not a coach like you, but just because I am a woman, I see the value of knowing the techniques as a woman.

Ben Van Doren: There's an angle to that, if you're a woman who walks in the gym, and you don't see any women there, it's hard to see yourself in that environment.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: Yeah.

Ben Van Doren: So it really takes that first couple of women to join a gym. Then other women show up and they're going feel comfortable training because they see themselves in the environment. But just getting that first initial crew going, this is challenging.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: Yeah, I know I haven't met them yet.

Ben Van Doren: I think it takes a lot for you to train in a room full of men. Beth and Naomi have been with me for a long time. I don't know if you've met them yet, they normally train in the morning. But when they started training there were very few women in the gym. Having women in the gym, one who's a purple belt and one of our coaches, I think that helps change the perception a little bit.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: Yeah, absolutely.

Ben Van Doren: You mentioned the self-defense angle. This is something that I used to not think about, which has changed over the last couple years. I've changed my thinking on this a lot because most of what we do in class is not really going to translate in a fight. You get comfortable physically exchanging, but you're not going to go upside down and invert in a self-defense situation. So, how much of what you've done do you think really fills that hole for you?

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: It really just gives me confidence while being on my back. Just giving me techniques of how I can potentially control somebody when they're on top of me, so that way I can get out of a situation. I also follow, I don't know if you know Eve Torres Gracie, a lot of her content is for self-defense, so combining some of her content. I don't watch her religiously, but combining that plus what we learn in class and then when I practice with Miguel, I actually have him put me in difficult situations sometimes that I would be scared to be in. I'm not like a psychopath about it, but just sometimes, just so I can get

the feeling of somebody. Like if I'm on my stomach, how I can escape that. So that's how I use it as self-defense and confidence when I'm by myself, whether I'm walking or going for run.

Ben Van Doren: I've already incorporated self defense stuff into our beginner's program. That part of the curriculum used to not be there. So now there's a whole section of the 101 class where you go over self-defense stuff. I’ve thought about doing something more regular with for self-defense in class. I used to not really think about it, but as time goes on I more and more start to see it as a big part of what we should be doing in Jiu Jitsu. So that's helpful for me to know, in terms of why you come, to see what you're looking for because it can help inform the way I coach, and the decisions I make in the future. As an example, when I’m teaching I talk about different decision trees. As you roll, you are going to do A, then B, then C. That decision tree changes depending on the situation, whether you’re in the gym, or in a competition, or in a fight. That decision tree is going to change. Even if I don't change the curriculum in the context of a technique, I can talk about different decision trees. You would do this in a competition. you would do this in a self-defense situation and you would do this in another situation. So that's good insight to have from you to help inform the way I coach.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: Yeah, I don't mean for you to change the way you coach either. I mean, I also want to be an athlete. I do want to compete eventually just because, well, I'm an athlete. So, if I'm doing something that I want to put to the test, I think that's the best way to learn anyway, in my opinion, coming from my athletic background. The only way to test your actual knowledge is to go against somebody. You don't know when there's pressure so I definitely want to compete too.

Ben Van Doren: I want to get to that in a little bit because I think that it's going to be important to look back on your perception of this now versus after you have some competitions under your belt, but before we get there, as you came into the gym, how has the grappling experience been different? You didn’t really enjoy wrestling, and now you are back on the mat.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: When I was in high school I feel like I just couldn't grasp technique, and it maybe was the way I was coached to. I just wasn't used to it. It was a whole new style of thinking and execution that I had never experienced before, except I was just a runner. And a long distance runner at that, so it was just a completely different style of thinking and coaching. I don't think I could understand. I just couldn't grasp what I was being taught except for drills, because it was super easy for me, and whether it was by myself or with one partner but the actual live wrestling couldn't do. I feel like when I started going to the free trials a few years ago, I feel like something clicked in my head where it didn't before. I actually could translate technique into roles, like when I did live rolls with people. So I guess just learning how to learn this type of sport was a big thing for me. That was a game changer for me. So learning how to learn, step one and then step two. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable. I mean, I think I've always been pretty good at handling myself in uncomfortable situations, but just being better at it and growing as an individual, that's helped me a lot. I'm not as immature as I was when I was 17 years old.

Ben Van Doren: When you say learning how to learn, what is that? How would you define that?

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: Yeah. How would I define that? I don't know. I say this a lot, learning how to learn. It's a different style of teaching. It's a whole different sport itself. I don't know these body movements. I don't know this terminology. I don't know anything about it. So I've never been taught anything like this, so just learning how to absorb this material, learning how to apply this material that I'm learning. That was, that was a barrier for me.

Ben Van Doren: Was there something that could have made that easier for you as far as walking in and being in this new world of movement language? Is there something that could have made that easier for you to learn how to learn? What would you have needed?

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: I think learning the movements first, like learning what is a natural movement in Jiu Jitsu? Because sometimes I know, like sometimes when you're teaching a lesson or even Miguel showing me, you'll say, you know, your opponent's first reaction is going to be like this. And so, then you're going to do this, and I'm thinking, I don't know if that would be my first reaction, but that's good to know that that's supposed to be my reaction, because sometimes I don't put two and two together. But sometimes I do, so I guess learning like the base foundation of movement, so shrimping, rolling. I remember one move. I don't remember what it was called, but one of the moves you were doing in class where we had to lift our partner up and then kind of roll them over our shoulder and then we'd come out on mount.

Ben Van Doren: Yep.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: That was really hard for me to do because the rolling part was so different. So I had to really figure that out and I struggled, I still struggle with it, so yeah, learning those base movements, shrimping, rolling, whatever it is. And then also just learning the reaction, But I don't know how you would teach that without just doing what we're doing.

Ben Van Doren: I actually have a plan for that as far as class structure and class curriculum. It's just a matter of time. You know, it's more classes, it's more time and energy on my part. We have our BJJ 101 class. I'm working on a couple other classes that down the road I want to introduce. One of them is going to be another 100 level class, so there won't be any rolling in it. And it's just goning to be movement drills and partner drills. And I think that would address a lot of the things that you're saying,

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: That's exactly what I'm saying. Just more eloquently

Ben Van Doren: It would just be 45 minutes to an hour of going through those foundational movements. So I think that would be helpful once we get to the point where we can do that in terms of our schedule and our roster,

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: Right.

Ben Van Doren: Right now with some of the movements you're finding challenging, Is there one thing that I could fix for you now as a coach that you're struggling with. You mentioned learning how to learn. Is there still something in that process that could be fixed?

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: I don't think so. To be honest, I think that all the instructors are great at Deep Blue. I think it's for me, it's a matter of practice, I just need to keep practicing so more open mat type time. I think that would help me a lot right now. We're just planning for a wedding that's coming up in a few weeks, so time is of the essence. I haven't had as much time to really sit down and study and focus on what we're learning in class as much as I would like to. So when I have more time and I'm able to actually review notes, and go through things slowly and practice movements on my own, that's really gonna be it for me. I know that'll be a game changer for me. It's just right now, I'm not able to commit that time. So once I'm able to commit that extra time and just practice this, I'll be fine.

Ben Van Doren: Do you take notes?

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: I take notes here and there. It's not very good.

Ben Van Doren: That's something that came up when I talked to Miguel too, and I know there are a few people in class to take notes.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: Yeah, I know, Alex takes really good notes.

Ben Van Doren: Yeah, he does. Mike takes notes. Sometimes Naomi takes notes. When I talked to Miguel I mentioned, It would be easy for us to share those notes with each other, just post them in our discord channel. That way if he didn't have the time to take the notes, you at least have something to reference.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: Oh yeah.

Ben Van Doren: I'm inconsistent about this, I need to be better about this, but I try to put stuff in there too about what we are going to focus on for the next week. This is our decision tree, etc.... I'll try to record and post the videos. So I think there could be a collective effort there, that would help the summary.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: Yeah.

Ben Van Doren: If you have 20 people all taking the same notes, on the same thing. Sometimes the process is the point, taking your notes helps, but we can make the process easy for each other.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: Yeah, that's a good idea.

Ben Van Doren: You already talked about a few things, and Miguel did too, about stuff you do outside of the gym. He had mentioned sometimes you guys work on stuff together. Is there anything else that you do, for example you mentioned watching some self-defense stuff. Is that a regular part of your routine?

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: No, not really. It's just more here and there. I don't think I do anything regularly at the moment. I did watch UFC one through five with Royce Gracie, and I love watching those. So watching him and trying to see, Okay, what is he trying to do right now and trying to dissect it? That's not a regular thing. That's just something we do here and there. Miguel also likes to watch some ADCC and other live matches from Flograppling. So we'll watch those together sometimes but it's more entertainment based, and just having fun for us, like trying to figure things out. Like Oh, what are they doing?

Ben Van Doren: That's honestly a lot. I mean, what you just mentioned is a lot and it's really all you need to do. Especially, you say you're watching those matches and you're just doing it for fun. I think you'd be surprised how many people come to Jiu Jitsu, train Jiu Jitsu, and never ever watch Jiu Jitsu. They couldn't tell you anything about it. Who competes, you know, which is fine, it's not necessary, but I think watching it helps you understand it. For example, earlier you mentioned that you didn't know you were supposed to move this way in the situation, but when you watch Jiu Jitsu all the time, you start to see people consistently doing the same things over and over again. Consistently reacting the same way. So even if it’s not happening consciously, you're probably picking up a lot of stuff. And this is hard to do right now as you're just learning the sport, but as you learn the sport more, and especially as you start competing, watching those matches and doing match breakdowns is a really important exercise to understand Jiu Jitsu at a higher level. You mentioned sort of doing that with Royce Gracie a little bit, like how in the world is he doing this?

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: Yeah.

Ben Van Doren: Doing that in competition matches is important.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: Yeah, that's true. I guess I didn't think about that, that's kind of what we were doing, watching other people grapple.

Ben Van Doren: Yeah.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: Miguel and I both have experience doing that. Just being previous athletes, that's something we've always had to do is after action reports on ourselves and on what we did. What we did right, what we did wrong, all about our execution, so we're pretty familiar with doing that.

Ben Van Doren: That takes a lot of self discipline and it's hard. Especially now, you're both working, planning for a wedding, it's a lot to do. But this is a long game, you know, you don't have to figure it all out right now. You have plenty of time to do it.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: Right? I would like to though. I wish I could figure it all out right now. I think my patience, my patience is something I'm struggling with, and I'm trying to get better, to be more patient.

Ben Van Doren: As far as setting expectations for you, is there something that I could do to help you with that? I see you get impatient in class, sometimes you get frustrated with yourself.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: Oh yeah. No, that's just me. That's just my problem. That's something I have to work through. I don't really think it's anybody's job to help me through that. That's an internal thing. I know I'm very impatient and I can be frustrated when it comes to learning new things. I think everybody is, but I also know that that's something that I have to get over and work through. That has to apply to all aspects of my life. It's not just in class. So it's something that I am consciously working on, trying not to get frustrated it. I honestly think right now, it depends on everything else that's happening in my life, because sometimes in classes I'm pretty patient with myself. I'm pretty graceful, but then there are other times where I'm just like, I see red. Because I'm so annoyed with myself, but it might be because I've had a really long frustrating day with things going on, not just with work, but with the wedding and family things. Life is busy, life is hard, it's hard for everybody. But especially right now for me with the wedding. It’s a little hard for me just because I think my family is a lot different than other people's families. I know everybody has family issues but it's just been hard. That's all I should say. So yeah, dealing with a lot of emotions right now, outside of the mat. So, Depending on how the day went that emotion can translate on the mat and so that it looks like I'm extra frustrated today. But it's just something with myself that I'm I'm working through and learning how to be patient and how to handle my emotions better as a person as an adult, as a woman.

Ben Van Doren: To some degree, I think that stems from having high expectations of yourself, that's good as long as it doesn’t steer you away from the training experience. One thing I see consistently is people who are natural athletes get frustrated with themselves more. Its because they grew up playing sports, they think they're going to show up and be good at this too, but they aren’t and they don't understand why. This kind of goes back to some of the things you were saying earlier about how there's no other Western sport, baseball, basketball, whatever, where you move like you move in Jiu Jitsu. So,you become successful moving a certain way, playing traditional sports and you come to Jiu Jitsu or wrestling and it's totally different. All of a sudden you're not a great athlete anymore and it's a totally different athletic experience.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: Right.

Ben Van Doren: It's almost counterintuitive, but people who are naturally athletic need to make a more conscious effort to slow down and take a step back, realize that they're entering into uncharted territory for themselves.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: Oh, for sure. To be honest with you, it's actually something I say all the time. I tell Miguel, I am not a natural athlete because I don't pick up on things very quickly, I was a runner. So I ran in a straight line, I jumped over some hurdles. That was basically it. So anything that involves coordination or moving quickly. I'm getting better at it, but I don't do it. Naturally, Miguel works on my athleticism with me all the time, but because he played football he likes doing all these explosive things. So, he's teaching me those movements. It's starting to come to me, the muscle memory of being explosive and quick on my feet and the hand-eye coordination. We're working on that a little bit, but I always say I'm not a natural athlete. Because I know it's so hard for me to learn new things. So I don't think for me personally, that's not really a worry of mine just because I have, I'm doing jujitsu for other things too. Like I'm not just doing it as a new sport, I'm doing it as a philosophy to myself, so it changes who I am. In the way I think about things, I want to be able to slow down my thinking because that's really what I'm learning too. When I'm in a stressful situation, I'm thinking about all these things and so many things are coming at me and I can't breathe. What can I do? What can I set up to trick somebody into doing something else or not, even what can I see? Just seeing the match from above and applying that to my life as well. So, you know, quitting because I'm frustrated isn't really something that I'm worried about because it's more than that for me.

Ben Van Doren: The next question I was going to ask you next is about your training goals. I think you just answered at least part of that for yourself, in terms of what you're looking to get out of Jiu Jitsu. Within Jiu Jitsu, do you have any specific training goals? I know you mentioned in the future that you want to compete. Are there any other specifics you have, or are you just looking to enjoy it and learn what you can on the ride.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: If I'm doing it I want to compete. I want to continue to go up in belts, like I don't want to be a white belt forever. I want to move up, eventually. I think it would be great if I could teach other women the sport too. Why I love it, why it could benefit them and then teach them how to be comfortable with it, because I know that's a struggle for a lot of women. So, I would love to teach women's classes, I mean I would love to teach anybody, but I would love to teach women specifically.

Another reason I started Jiu Jitsu is because having a family is more and more of a thing each day, because we're getting older and we're getting married. So we're gonna have kids eventually. And one of the things that's important to me is knowing how to protect myself and protect my family. So I actually want to, I want to go outside of Jiu-jitsu as well. I want to continue doing Jiu Jitsu, but also mix in some striking here and there, mix in some MMA type stuff to complete my knowledge base. So that way when I do have a family, if it's just me and a child, or if it's just me and you know, whatever it is, I want to be able to help protect them, so I guess those are my goals. I want to move up in ranking, I want to compete, I want to eventually teach women's classes at least, and then learn other parts of MMA.

Ben Van Doren: That coaching angle is important for me to know. Miguel mentioned the same thing. Both of you have a lot of sports experience, so you may have a different perspective on this. I didn't play sports before I came to Jiu Jitsu. I didn't have an athlete coach-relationship with anybody. So taking on a coaching role was a totally different challenge for me, and it changes your relationship with Jiu Jitsu. I think in a good way, but it turns it more into a responsibility rather than just showing up and going through class. It’s good for me to know that that is something you're both interested in because as we move forward I can start thinking about that, as far as how I give you feedback, how I direct your progress. I can think about how to incorporate that into what we do in the gym. That's a long term goal, but I need to know so I can help push you forward in that direction.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: I know it's not something I'd be ready to do anytime soon, just because of the patience, I think I'm working on. I think Miguel would be ready a lot sooner than I would just because he's, he's pretty good, he's really good at teaching concepts. Even to me, he's really good at just breaking things down to such an elementary level, and also being patient and positive. That's something I appreciate about, appreciate about Mike as well. He's super, super patient.

Ben Van Doren: Oh yeah.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: I don't see myself as being like that yet, but definitely long term goal. Definitely long term goal.

Ben Van Doren: Cool. So you have your long term goals, is there anything right now that Is holding you back from progressing that I could fix for you.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: No, not really. Just it's more myself. Miguel told me about this question. He said mentioned time management. And I said, Wow, yeah, that's the same for me. I think it's probably the same for everybody.

Ben Van Doren: Oh yeah, it is

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: Yeah. Building my calendar so I can fit everything in that I need to do, you know, go to class. And then practice outside of class, and study notes outside of class, and also putting in time to progress in my career and get in other forms of training. I like lifting. I like doing cardio. So fitting in those other things that I enjoy. Cooking, I love to cook. I make my own lotion. I like to make my own. I make my own lip balm. I make so much of my own stuff. I like to do a lot of things and then planning for this wedding, it's like, it's pretty easy to get stressed out about that. Finding time for every little piece of the puzzle. So, just building my schedule.

Ben Van Doren: Miguel mentioned that. Especially when people first start, the first goal should really just be finding the schedule that you're talking about. When people start, they come in. They immediately think this is an amazing sport. They are like, I love it. I want to do this much as possible. But they don't have the schedule figured out. So they overdo it, they overtrain, they forget about everything else in their life and then two months later they quit because they don't think that they can do it. They're ignoring other responsibilities, their bodies are getting beat up, so it's really better to start slow. If you just train two days a week, and just did that every single week, that's better than trying to fit in five days a week and then the next week being stressed out, not coming to class because you're catching up on everything else in life. Finding that consistency is going to bring better progress and a better relationship with the mats than going all in and getting stressed out. Stepping away for a minute, trying to go on in again, that is sort of an unsustainable cycle.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: Right? Yeah, for sure. I definitely see that. I think that going to class is not really disrupting anything like that in my life. I actually enjoy it, it's like my moment of peace. When I get to go to class, it's like the only time I get time to myself and sometimes it's the only time I get to hang out with Miguel. I like going to class. It's a lot more than, Oh, I need to go to class and I need to learn this thing, because I really enjoy it. Forgetting everything else in my life that's important, it's not really like that. It's like, no, this is an important part. This is a very important part of my life, of my day. I need this as part of my day especially if it was super stressful. I want to goand get some adrenaline out, so I don't really think that would be the relationship I have with it, but I guess I don't really know yet. Just learning how to fit a social life in there, too. I'm not ignoring any responsibilities. It's just allowing myself to not get stressful about the other hobbies in my life.

Ben Van Doren: I think that really addresses what this means to you in the context of your life, and you're already finding and stating those things. So you may be ahead of the game a little bit as far as figuring out why you show up. One thing that happens is you show up to Jiu Jitsu for a reason. Whether it's self-defense or to get in shape, or whatever it is, but as time goes on those reasons will always change. So you're always reassessing why you show up, reassessing what you get out of it. And the more you learn about Jiu Jitsu, it kind of shapes that conversation with yourself. Those are things that will come out as we touch base with this series. Two years from now, we'll be having a conversation and you might have a very different perspective on stuff.

Kayla Arjona-Rodriguez: Yeah, absolutely. I'm excited for this whole series because I think it's a great reflection tool. It was like when I was in seventh grade, we had to write letters to ourselves and our seventh grade teacher, she gave the letters to us on our graduation day and it was just, it was such a cool moment to read how my brain works when I was 12 years old. Like, what my view of life was at that point. It was just so innocent and so cute to look at. I feel like this is gonna be something similar. I have no idea what I'm in for but this is what I think about life right now. This is what I think about jujitsu right now, but I'm excited to look back and read this and see how I've grown and how I've changed in Jiu Jitsu later on.


We will check back in with Kayla in 3-4 months to track her progress,

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