We all have these moments or experiences that force us to see things in a new light or from a different angle. Those formative moments, “moments of clarity” if you like, or sudden realizations mainly occur when we open ourselves up to new opportunities. Some of the most formative moments in my own journey with the martial art haven’t even occurred on the mats, or with people who know what Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is.
Jiu-jitsu can teach us to learn from anyone. Any way you look at it, those lessons travel with you throughout your whole life.
One such experience I had was during my visit to Thailand in 2015. I spent about a month in the north of the country, specifically Chiang Mai. I was still a white belt at the time and I was feeling the drain from one of the most intense years of training I had experienced to date. I had experienced my first competitions and major weight loss (having weighed 120kgs before I began BJJ, I was down to roughly 90kgs by the time I traveled to Thailand). My obsession with BJJ was still in its infancy at the time.
Being alone for the majority of the time; I passed the time with plenty of food, drink and meeting backpackers that frequented the city and surrounding area. I remember playing pool one night over a few Changs, talking shit with a pair of backpackers from Denmark. I had never met anyone from Denmark before and I was fascinated by the stories they told me of their travels. The pair had been travelling the world non-stop for 2 years, accumulating a veritable bucket list of countries that they had been to (or at least been drunk in the airports of). Neither of them had done a martial art before, nor heard of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. I did my best to try and explain the broader concept of the art to them, explain the history, grappling as a whole and more. I found that the more I had to explain it and clarify it to them, the more it became clear in my own mind as to what the art is and why I was becoming so obsessed by it.
I can’t even remember their names now, I’m not sure if the beer is responsible for that or just simply that it wasn’t important. What I do remember is the new clarity I had created in my own mind about the martial art I practiced so often, yet had thought so superficially about until then. After Chiang Mai, I traveled south to the island of Koh Tao where I was fortunate to meet and train with some amazing people that confirmed my dedication to the art.
What I’m still only beginning to realize is that there are some fundamental truths- cornerstones to the martial art- that apply in far greater ways than we often realize; how we treat others, deal with stress, manage our busy lives… all of these things are influenced by things we learn in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. As Musashi said “Know the way broadly and you will see it in all things.”. I think our lessons are like tools that we carry through our lives. Once we gather a wide variety of tools, we are able to approach problems we wouldn’t have been able to solve before.
On reflection, I would never have had the confidence to travel alone without the lessons I learned in Jiu-jitsu. I would never have moved to a new city (where I knew the sum total of two people) or be openly and unapologetically myslef. I think for those of us who are obsessed or absorbed by our discipline or art form that we start to see it in everything. Any way you look at it; it’s present in your life.
Thanks for reading.