Blog / April 19, 2023
Jiu Jitsu: The Art of Humility
In the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, humility is the greatest weapon you can possess.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a combat sport that was created in Brazil. The sport was created by the Gracie Family. The Gracie’s learned Jiu Jitsu from Esai Maeda a Jiu Jitsu master from Japan who travelled to Brazil as part of large Japanese immigration colony. Helio Gracie was the progenitor of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Helio was always small and frail person, so he took Jiu Jitsu and modified it in order to accommodate his weak body. Helio emphasized the use of leverage and timing over strength and speed. This was the birth of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu one of the fastest growing sports in the world of martial arts.
I started my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu journey 5 years ago; the sport is exciting and also grueling. In this sport you are your own biggest limitation. It forces you to really analyze who you are. How you spar or “roll” on the mat often mirrors how you approach life. Many of the white belts who first start Jiu Jitsu are often chaotic in their nature, it’s like watching a baby learning to walk. Two white belts sparring looks like two cats fighting or two walruses wrestling in the wild (it’s pretty entertaining). Respect is always demanded on and off the mat, students are expected to bow before walking on the matt and are expected to line up in belt ranking, the most experienced higher belts line up first down to the lowest belt order and least experienced at the end of the line.
The first lesson I learned in Jiujitsu is suffering. I wanted to give up so many times during hard trainings and just walk away. The more you spar the more you condition your body to relax. You learn to suffer with dignity, and through that suffering you evidently grow. You start to realize the beauty in suffering on the mat and how it relates to life. The pressure grows and grows and it never gets easy but it allows you to face the suffering with open and welcoming arms, and eventually over the years it crystalizes inside of you like a diamond.
I recall a friend of mine telling me that whenever she rolls, she realized that she was always waiting for her opponent to make the first move. She was always reacting instead of acting. She said that she approached life this way and that she would let things happen and then re-act. She became conscious of this pattern and started to initiate her will power on the mat and in life, this is an extremely powerful self-observation and was life changing for her.
Last month I happened to have one of these powerful self-realizations. I was sparring with 20-year-old state champion wrestler, he was about 35 pounds more than me. His jiu jitsu was crap but he was an incredible athlete and 10 years younger than me. We started sparring and my opponent being the wrestler, he was able to get the takedown and caught me in a choke and also got me in half guard (trapped one of my legs with his leg). I knew I was in trouble and slowly I was losing my ability to breath. My ego did not want me to lose to this young kid, I just could not let this kid have the best of me. I panicked because I could no longer breath, in trying to release the choke I contorted my knee which was trapped by his leg.* POP* my right knee blew out and I tapped immediately. I knew right away that I made a really stupid mistake. I could not walk on my right leg for 2 weeks; the diagnosis was a torn meniscus. Now I was really screwed, because I had to do something that I was not used to doing, which is rest. I could not train for a month, and I had to be extremely cautious when I got back on the mat. Once I healed i got eager to train hard a gain and ended up re-injuring my knee. This put me put for another month. I started to reflect a lot on what happened and what I could have done differently to avoid that injury, I was progressing so fast and it just stopped. In the end I could have avoided all of this, if I just swallowed my pride. My ego got the best of me and caused me to stop doing what I loved for some time. During practice (competition is a different story) you need to learn to let go, and accept when your opponent gets the best of you, this is hard to do when your opponent has a much lower skill level then you and still manages to best you. Even after 5 years of training I still have not learned how to swallow my pride, I never had a problem with someone tapping me out if they were more experienced, but less experienced people….well I just could not let that happen.
The entire experience gave me more humility as a practitioner of the sport, and in life. When something does not go your way or when you lose it’s not the end. It’s an opportunity to do better, someone has to lose and someone has to win, that’s the nature of competition. I am okay with losing, on the condition that I get back up and try again, and again, and again. It might all sound cliche, but it’s an extremely humbling experience to go through. Knowing when it’s okay to lose is so much more important than learning how to win. Life is filled with failures and that builds character, soul, and in the end is what makes you a fighter. I am grateful to be back on the mat again and next time I’m in serious trouble you can expect me to tap right away.