BJJ is a Journey Shared on the Mats

A few weeks ago the Fightworks podcast ran a poll about whether or not people would continue training irrespective of skill improvement or belt promotion and the results were very exciting, namely 75% of the poll takers said they wouldn’t discontinue training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu even if they were never to improve or get promoted.

Mr Tom McAlpine expressing his joy after getting his well-deserved purple belt yesterday at the BJJ Labs

While nobody likes to tap to a choke or a joint lock, everybody understands, or at least should, the value of tapping. It made me so happy to see the results of the poll as it confirmed my theory on why we love Brazilian Jiu Jitsu so much: because it's a Journey Shared on the Mats (JSM)

No one who's done even a single session of BJJ can deny that it's a journey. Yes you will learn a skill or two even on your first day but you will immediately realize that grappling is not an easy, quick affair. But to be fair, the same is true for any endeavour in life worth pursuing, from table tennis to sculpture, ballet to javelin throwing or cooking to playing the piano. “Nothing worth having comes easy”, the saying goes.

Part of the attraction of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu journey is that it's a shared one, and shared so intimately. Losing a practice match in table tennis or missing the C# during rehearsal is definitely frustrating but it's nothing like your partner choking you out after sitting on your chest! Also, as pissed off as you are at getting caught, part of you always goes: Nice one!

Our coach Martyn Cahill congratulating Michael Carroll on his new purple belt at the BJJ Labs

We closely share each others ups and downs. We know how they feel from first hand experience. We hug, fist-bump and pat backs to connect with each other. We know our "well done" was heard, but we still insist on reaching out and shaking their hand.

Finally, the journey must be shared on the mats. Living in England, I know tons of football fans who go thru months and months of religiously following football (that’s soccer to our American amig(a/o)s) without ever kicking a ball on a field. That’s not the same in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. While you don’t have to be a mat-slave or pro-fighter-hopeful, you need to be at least a Part Time Grappler to truthfully share the journey of BJJ.

Don’t misunderestimate what I mean, I love blogging (with people like Meerkatsu, Georgette, Meg, CaneSlideyAllie et al constantly pouring their hearts out who could resist!) , chatting to my BJJ-buddies, going to parties with them, reading mags and watching Mr Ribiero et al discussing the “aspect of the momento” for hours on end on YouTube nad DVDs but nothing replaces that cold feeling of the mats touching my bare feet. It’s like someone reached out and turned down the “Volume” dial on life. When that happens, I always look across the mat and catch a glimpse of the same feeling in the eyes of my pyjama-clad friends. The JSM is the most important part of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and without it, it’s all just silly.

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SkinnyD said...

Nice post. I agree with the journey shared on the mats idea, but I am still pretty skeptical about the results of that FWP poll. I was one of the 25% that said I wouldn't continue. I think people severely underestimated the role that improvement plays int he BJJ "journey". Frankly, there IS no journey without improvement in my opinion, especially if you're a beginner. That's like saying "Hey, wouldn't it be cool to visit China?" then spending your whole life planning the trip, but never actually going. Thankfully it's all hypothetical; anyone who puts in time and effort will progress and improve, and we can have that journey shared on the mats!

The Part Time Grappler said...

Many thanks skinny. You've obviously not seen the movie UP! :o)

SkinnyD said...

OK, so my analogy was crap :)
I totally agree with your post, I just personally see that poll question as being opposed to the whole journey concept, because I see mutual technical improvement as an integral part of that shared journey.

The Part Time Grappler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Part Time Grappler said...

I see what you mean Skinny. I'm starting to realise that I'm just in it for the hugging :o)

I do agree with you that the poll question is a little bizarre as it puts across the theory that you - the reader - won't improve but everyone else is at a certain level and may or may not improve, which is very hypothetical (or based in the dojo from hell!). Or maybe it in a world where everyone comes to training, everyone is kinda crap and no one gets better..(based in another dojo from hell!)

The thing is, in either case, I think I would enjoy showing up to training, going thru the hardships with fellow people I like and get a good work out physically and mentally. In the beginning the going will be very tough (for me and for everyone else) but soon we will share so much on the mat that we will start to connect as human beings and, even though we are not getting any better at this jiu Jitsu malarkey, we are forming bonds. Real bonds. Solid bonds. We are learning to cope with life hardships (journey) and we are learning that together (shared) and it’s very very physical (on the mats)

Yep. Defo in it for the hugs!