One piece of immortal wisdom from Baz Luhrmann's Sunscreen Song is that you should do something every day that scares you.
A couple of days a year, I do something that scares me so much time slows down a little bit. Sounds become unreal and I can feel my heartbeat in my chest.
I spend the weeks beforehand tired, sore and hungry. If I'm lucky, I'll get a shiny bit of plastic and some Insta-worthy photos - if I'm unlucky I might take a trip to the hospital.
It's unusual to be that unlucky, but the risk of public humiliation is definitely on the table, and it's likely I'll spend the better part of five minutes being aggressively squashed.
I began training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu three years ago.
I had vague ideas of finally getting my black belt in judo, but jiu-jitsu was the closest thing on offer in my country town - and I'm glad it was.
Spawned after a travelling Japanese Judoka trained three brothers in Brazil around 1920, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is similar to wrestling, with the addition of chokes, strangles and joint locks.
It's a relatively young martial art, and is still evolving, but the basics remain the same.
In the words of coaching great John Danaher, jiu-jitsu is about taking the fight to the ground, getting past your opponent's (surprisingly dangerous) legs, establishing control, then working to submission via a joint lock, choke or strangle.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is meant to make it possible for a smaller, weaker opponent to submit a larger, stronger opponent.
Traditionally it's practised in the gi (kimono). You quickly learn that even your own clothing can be used against you.
As the popularity of mixed martial arts has risen, it's become standard to also practise without the gi.
Classes usually involve a warm-up, technical drills and full-contact sparring.
Sparring gives you the chance to try out what you've learnt, to see if you can use that knowledge under pressure.
I'm a small human, but even small legs are stronger than anyone else's arm.
If you're on someone's back there's very little they can do to hurt you in sports jiu-jitsu.
And it works. Not always - you quickly learn that the most predictable thing about sparring is that it's unpredictable.
It's not uncommon to see a giant football player be choked again and again by a small woman who's spent years training.
Some of the most friendly, unimposing people are terrifying on the mats.
It's inspiring. Regardless of where you start, your physical limitations, with practice you can learn. You can improve.
All you have to do is endure the first weeks and months of getting absolutely crushed every time you turn up.
Practice often looks like a lot of clumsy and confusing rolling about on the ground. In the beginning, it feels exactly how it looks.
You don't know what's happening. You don't know what the other person is doing, you don't know what you should be doing and everything that seems instinctively right turns out to be wrong.
Someone is on top of you. You can't breathe, and you try to push them away - only to have your now-vulnerable arms attacked.
Someone is on top of you. You try to roll away - and suddenly that person is on your back. You still can't breathe and now you can't see them either.
You're on top, for once. This is new, this is exciting. Until the person underneath you, somehow, by magic, flips you over, and you're back on the bottom. Or they choke you. Or they try to break your arm.
Slowly, you learn to keep your arms close and safe. Slowly, you learn to always turn towards an opponent, never away. Slowly, you learn to keep your balance, to protect your vulnerable neck.
One day, someone new turns up, and all of a sudden you're the person on the top. You're the person attacking arms, taking the back and applying chokes.
Then you spar with someone else and you're back to square one. It's the nature of the sport.
It's addictive. There's nowhere to hide - what you do works or it doesn't.
The only person who really cares if you do poorly is you; the only person who gets the feeling of satisfaction when you do well is you.
Despite this, it's still very much a team sport. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu forces you to be physically and emotionally vulnerable with your sparring partners.
You trust your partner not to do things that are dangerous or reckless. You trust them to play by the rules and you trust them to let go when you tap.
It's also very up close and personal. If you've trained anywhere for a while there's a good chance most of your teammates have dripped sweat into your face, had a wardrobe malfunction or similar mishaps.
You've done most of those things to them, too. It's an unavoidable part of a sport that involves so much close contact - we're all human, in weird human bodies and sometimes they're embarrassing.
You'll see your teammates at their best moments and at some of their worst. Training can be therapy when times are tough but it can also be the straw that broke the camel's back.
Regardless of how different people's lives look off the mats, train together for long enough and close bonds are inevitable.
When I first started training I was the only woman at my club. After months of feeling beat down about being beat up by some rather large gentlemen, I was keen to try my emerging skills on someone my own size.
The only way I could see to do that was to sign up for a competition.
I had no idea.
I had two matches and got mauled in both. I was hooked.
Since then, I've competed half a dozen times, with mixed success.
Preparation can be brutal - painfully aware of my average-at-best skills, I'm keen to make up for my deficiencies with fitness. There's nothing worse than being caught in a bad spot and realising you're too unfit to do anything about it.
It's a team effort. Teammates push each other in the lead-up, share competition-day jitters and cheer like crazy for each other.
For me at least, the nerves only last until the first match starts. Once you walk out there it's just you and one other person. The whole world stops for a moment and you're completely present.
Often you're completely, mindfully present while you're getting crushed to a pulp, but still.
I've never left a competition without making a new friend; I've never left without learning something.
After COVID-19 restrictions, the 2021 ACT state championships were my first chance to compete with my old team from Kemp's MMA Gym in Nowra in more than a year.
I'm fortunate that my new gym, Garage Jiu-Jitsu Bellambi, has some incredibly strong, talented and dedicated women to train with - I don't need to compete to spar with other women anymore.
But I still love the feeling of working towards a goal; I still love doing something that scares me. And all of those women generously went out of their way to help me prepare in the weeks leading up to it.
This time, almost three years to the day after the first time I competed, some things were the same. The nerves, the excitement, the camaraderie were all still there.
I did a little better this time around, taking silver in the gi and gold in no-gi.
Win or lose, I was reminded of why it's worth doing the things that scare you.