Play, Rather Than Work, Jiu Jitsu

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

One of my greatest obstacles to happiness is that I am so hyper-focused on becoming that I often neglect being. In a culture of growth and innovation, we are constantly tasked to use our time in the most productive way, and when we are not actively striving toward some grand aspiration, ennui sets in.

Our language reveals our world. Someone who does Jiu Jitsu is known as a Jiu Jitsu player. We play Jiu Jitsu; we do not work Jiu Jitsu.

We’ve all found great value in this art, and we recognize that its mastery is a worthwhile attempt. We come in each day, sore and tired, and strive toward a better understanding of this discipline and an increased effectiveness with which to apply what we’ve learned against a resisting opponent. As we progress in this art, we are able to better comprehend its depth and our own inadequacy.

“We live on an island surrounded by a sea of ignorance. As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.” – John Archibald Wheeler

This honest self-assessment of our own shortcomings easily breeds a dissatisfaction with one’s training. Regarding skill acquisition, this discontentedness is a gift which inspires our pursuit of deeper understanding. The pain of knowing what mastery is and falling short drives us to new heights, but often at the cost of neglecting something as simple as play.

“We thought of life by analogy with a journey, a pilgrimage, which had a serious purpose at the end, and the thing was to get to that end, success or whatever it is, maybe heaven after you’re dead. But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing and you were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.”- Alan Watts

I spend the majority of my time becoming: studying, training, acquiring– always working toward something. This gives my life purpose and allows me to suffer toward a worthwhile aim. But the moment that aspiration is achieved, I simply pick a new task to work toward, put my head down and repeat.

There are few barriers preventing us from becoming disciplined to the point of losing our humanity. Our culture often encourages it.

But all this time becoming leaves no time for being, for play: to do what you are doing for its own sake, fully immersed in the present moment, because the act brings you great joy in and of itself; finding value in the efforts themselves rather than the fruit they yield.

Many of us come to the mats for refuge from the office, the mortgage, and a laundry list of things to be done. Yes, we use Jiu Jitsu as a tool for personal development, but we must never forget that playing Jiu Jitsu is just as important.

And for those of us who spend our entire lives striving toward self-actualization, it is this play that may prove to be Jiu Jitsu’s greatest reward.


If you want to read Chris’s latest book on personal development, check it out here.

If you would like to be coached by Chris personally, click here.

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