One of the Many Ways Jiu Jitsu Has Taught Me Humility

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

One of the prerequisites to becoming highly skilled in Jiu Jitsu is that you must first lose extensively. We must fail over and over again until having learned from those failures we grow beyond them.

If you are fortunate enough to be in a room which constantly reminds you of your shortcomings, you will inevitably grow humbler within the mental framework with which you approach Jiu Jitsu, and hopefully life.

The ego can only take so many beatings until it succumbs to a more realistic world view. Each of us knows this, and this is why we are so thankful to those training partners who put a whooping on us, as odd in the eyes of our non ­Jiu Jitsu relationships as this may appear.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg in our journey toward the acquisition of humility.

There is so much more to be found, and so much unnecessary certainty to be lost. Just within the Ricardo Almeida Association, every instructor teaches something as simple as an armbar from closed guard differently. Sure, on the whole our instruction appears largely the same, but closer inspection shows the subtle nuances we all bring into our teaching.

We have all learned this technique at different times in our lives, from different instructors, under different settings, with a different mental framework, athletic ability, and personal history which all adds up to the subtlest variations on something outwardly so simple.

It must be acknowledged that, for the most part, none of these is more “right” than the others. Each is simply more efficient for the particular individual who teaches it based off their subjective skill set. The key as a good instructor is to be aware of this bias, and seek to teach that which is most accessible to the class as a whole, and ideally taking the time to find the best fit for each individual student.

Whenever I find a “truth”, I always seek for where else in our lives this concept may be applicable. If there exists so much variation in something as simple as an armbar, in a community as closely ­knit as ours, imagine the dissimilarities on a greater scale, our world view.

As Sam Harris, best­-selling author and neuroscientist said in a Big Think interview in 2011, “Consciousness is irreducibly subjective.” With this subjectivity comes an undeniable bias so strong that we often forget it exists. Each of us is an “island universe”, and we tend to think what makes sense for ourselves deep down makes sense for everyone else.

The wide variations of values that each of us possess starkly opposes this false mental framework.

Some of us value certainty. Routines, financial planning, itineraries are where these individuals find peace. Some of us value uncertainty. An open horizon, spontaneity, and a complete lack of commitment is where these men and women find life’s greatest joy. What is heaven for one is hell for the other. Inherently this does not make our world view “right” and everyone else’s “wrong.”

This truth simply makes it “right for me.”

This is a vast difference that cannot be overlooked if we are to understand and co-­exist with one another.

This has been one of the greatest lessons I have derived from Jiu Jitsu. Admittedly, I am extremely confident in the lens through which I view the world. I have spent so much time suffering, physically and metaphysically, in an attempt to construct a world view that would allow me to lead the best life possible. From my limited perspective, I think I have a good grasp of what this means. In the main, we all want to experience joy, remove suffering.

Universally, this seems to be achieved when we are growing, serving, and exploring, but the finer intricacies of the human experience have such variability that we cannot confidently claim any of them as objective truths.

The acknowledgment of this fact gives us the perspective to entertain the beliefs of others free of judgment, and gives us the opportunity to take part in authentic human relationships in which we can learn from the experiences of others. What a friend says may not agree with your interpretation of truth, but that does not make his or her claim wrong. It is simply “wrong for you.”

Top photo credit: Mike Murphy

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