I don’t get political on Social Media and I don’t intend to with this post. For those of you who know me, you know the huge role Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu plays in my life, it truly is a lifestyle and I want to share with the world a unique thing that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has to offer.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is practiced by a wide spectrum of people. In any BJJ Academy you will find an amalgamation of people that span across different ages, races, ethnicities, sexual identities, sexual orientations, gender roles, socio-economic statuses, political orientations, body types, neuro-diversities, religions and occupations. Some of us share similar values, beliefs, and goals; some of us don’t. We all walk through the doors, and then out those same doors- viewing the world through a particular lens, not fashioned by ophthalmologists but forged by our life experiences. Some share that same worldview, others don’t.
We walk on to the mats for different reasons, some of us want to be world champions. Others (and the vast majority) want to get into better shape, test themselves physically and mentally, burn off stress, pursue a dream, become more motivated in life, gain confidence and discipline, socialize or become better prepared to defend themselves and their families. There is always one person there so they can be better “commentators” for UFC fights, and every now and then there are some people there for the wrong reasons, but they generally don’t last a long time. Virtually all BJJ academies have a format to class that starts with warm-ups, drills, and technique. At the end it is common for us all to “roll” or “spar” with each other.
Rolling is perhaps the most hegemonic expression of mental and physical dominance over another person; our objective is to submit, pin or score more points than the other person by attempting to control movement and space (physically and mentally). It is immensely intimate; we embrace in a phantasmagoria of sweat, blood and tears. We feel the vibrations, weight disbursement and predict the movement and distance of one another. The beauty of all of this is the beginning and the end.
To start we line up from another person, another person who spans that spectrum of diversity- sometimes we just met that person an hour before. We slap hands and bump fists which initiates that intimate 5-6-minute chess game. No matter what the outcome is we always slap hands and bump fists at the end. Then we move onto the next person (some quicker than others). We line up in front of another person and, repeat hopefully adapting and learning from past experiences.
At the end of class, we fix our uniforms, wipe the sweat from our foreheads, and re-tape our cuts. We fix our knee braces, take a drink of water or call our parents for a ride. Some of us are happy with our performance, others neutral or disappointed. But ALL of us line up, together- in solidarity. We bow and walk through the line and shake EVERYONES hand.
The mats are left resembling a cornucopia of sweat, hair, tape, aspirations, disappointments, and experiences. As the mats are mopped (and no one is above mopping) we change and talk to each other about what we learned on the mats. Although we may not have had the same experiences or even understand the experiences of another, we remain open. Boldly and with humility we admit our shortcomings and flaws. We learn from each other and share our experiences and our “game”. From that as a community we drive on, this is what makes us stronger as a team.
After we all go home to our families, to our pets; shower, wash our uniforms and shake off the excess endorphins. We all go our separate ways then, but we always come back.
Take from this what you will, but I think we all can learn something from BJJ.
Written by Zachary Barry