I spent last summer alone in the national parks out west. I didn’t train Jiu Jitsu once and rarely even thought about it. Deep down, I wasn’t sure if I would ever train again.
I had been practicing Jiu Jitsu nearly every day, multiple times a day, for eight years. My body was broken, my soul was tired, and I wondered if teaching and training were still the best use of my single, finite life. With the blessing of my teacher, Professor Ricardo Almeida, I headed out on the greatest adventure of my life.
Having never camped before and rarely having driven beyond county limits, the 14,000-mile trek and nearly every night spent sleeping under the stars in beautiful wilderness was a shock to the system; the experience my soul craved which my environment could not provide.
I went away to reassess. With nothing to attend to but my own mind, the freedom from my daily environment allowed me to determine my true values. I had no preconceived notions or hopes. I went away to get quiet and listen. Whatever I wanted to do at the end of the summer, that is how I would spend my life.
I soon realized that though I love nature, the smile of a friend is more beautiful than any mountain. People come first. After thirty years of cognitive dissonance, the path became clear. I chose the life I had been living, service to others through Jiu Jitsu.
Now I return to Jiu Jitsu with fresh eyes. My time away offered me a perspective that I so desperately needed. Jiu Jitsu, and its infinite complexity manifested through simplicity, would continue to be the tea ceremony through which I pursued perfection and the platform through which I strive to make a difference in the world.
I am certainly not qualified to speak about anything else, but luckily, nothing else is needed. The principles which constitute good grappling are the same which make for a good life: the acquisition of virtue and the removal of vice, as we gain a better understanding of our experience to maximize our effectiveness in the world.
Each of us stands to gain immeasurably from this study, as Jiu Jitsu has nothing to do with race, geography, or socio-economic standing and everything to do with developing the finer aspects of our nature.
Free of all social constraints, we come together in our shared ignorance and desire for a better understanding of ourselves and our world, and through the pragmatic study of subduing our fellow man, we learn to subdue the weaker aspects of our nature.
I believe that most activities we have ever enjoyed, whether a sport, an art, or a hobby, are so enjoyed because they deepen our relationship to ourselves. They free us of our daily concerns as we tunnel our attention toward one task, giving us a vehicle with which to strengthen our virtue while removing our weakness.
Jiu Jitsu is something different to each of us. Whatever our growth requires, it provides. We could practice every day for the rest of our lives and never exhaust its benefits. The capacity of limitations rests on our effort and awareness, not the craft.
Jiu Jitsu is a support system for life, daily shaping our character through the repetition of virtuous action, giving us the ability to act more nobly in the world. Its function within the human individual is to facilitate the development which brings us closer to our most actualized self.
I imagine that any activity, when practiced with sincerity, can achieve this aim. But we are not concerned with those activities; we are concerned with ours. Jiu Jitsu is not life, but it does open us to life in ways we often remain closed.
Jiu Jitsu is not the summit we aspire toward. It’s the foundation we stand upon.