Want to know, ahead of time, what the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do really looks like?
What a gift, what a curse!
Here it is. Knowing full well, the idea that you’re about to face a challenge, yet deciding to do it anyways.
That’s the hardest part. Knowing that you’ve got uneven, rocky ground in the path ahead and deciding to forge onward with little deviation. Last week, I embarked on a new (and old) passion. A martial art I’ve long wanted to go back to since pausing my involvement in college. I went down to D&D United on Stanley Street and took my first two Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes.
All through public school, I wrestled. Good fun and an awesome challenge. Soon after high-school I was early into my first year of college and I wanted to do something like it but knew I wouldn’t stack up against the college-level wrestlers, so I decided to try BJJ. I went then to Joslin’s, a gym on Barton and positively loved it. There, I learned about chokes and submissions but now I know that one thing was very different about my experiences there, as compared to the classes I went to last week, later in life. In college, I had approached BJJ with a decidedly more aggressive slant, like I wanted to learn something about the fight itself. Now, I know that I’m in it for something else.
I got to the class with a brand new Gi that I’d purchased only a few days before. I’d worked diligently on cardio for a solid week, improving on my previous personal records for both my 5k and 10k times before focusing on a little bit of strength to round out the week. That first night, we got straight into rolling, as I’d expected to. Plenty of times, I was asked about my experiences in grappling, to which I’d replied “a lifetime ago”, and in many ways, it had been the truth.
A few years ago, I walked into the same class, took one look at the warriors within and promptly walked out. Phased by the skill and strength of the fighters inside, I figured I would just be swallowed. After a few years, I began making actual changes to my lifestyle that would eventually lead to the fitness level I am today. It began with simple changes and shifts to things I was already doing and, before I knew it, I’m now running, eating a protein-focused diet and actually ‘training’ regularly. So this week, I walked back to D&D and went in the door again.
I faced it, head on.
It wasn’t exactly that easy – but in type, that’s exactly what happened. I’d wanted to be involved in BJJ ever since I stopped going, in college. As well, since discovering podcasts as a major source of my entertainment as an adult, nearly all of my role models are in some way affiliated with BJJ. Everything I’ve read, heard or have otherwise consumed about BJJ suggests that it’s practice can help you to become a better person. Of course, it’s not the practice that makes you better, it’s the discipline, lifestyle and ambition that surrounds the sport that pushes you to be something you otherwise might not have been.
I waltzed into my first class back in almost a decade with a much different stance. Hungry for knowledge, not the fight. Craving the challenge, not the next coolest submission technique. I’m emphatically waiting for my next opportunity to think under an opponent who is clearly outperforming me. I don’t have a lot of opportunity in my day to day life to practice being beaten. That’s a strange thing to say, but a good combination of Jocko Willink’s words and a strong sense of self-awareness already built into my monkey brain suggests that I’m comfortable. I’m insulated and cared for by a society that really wraps me in bubble-wrap. I know I have it easy.
I’m looking forward to BJJ. Not just to roll and learn awesome techniques – because let’s face it, everyone looks forward to rolling and learning awesome new locks. I’m looking forward to being tapped out. I’m looking most forward to the hurt – knowing nothing and moving forward anyways. I’m looking forward to getting thrown (literally) out of my comfort zone and leaving the comfortable existence I’ve tried to build, even for just two hours, twice a week, to stare in the face what I once walked away from and walk head first into the storm.