My Experience in the Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Community

Valedictorian speech and Brown Belt Essay by student, Brett Rand.

The Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Brooklyn BJJ) community has had a more profound impact on me than any thing I have ever done in my life. That the word ” community” is used as opposed to “school”, “dojo” or “academy” is a testament to the impact of Shihan Dunn and Professor Glick’s vision. When asked the one word to describe what their vision has provided for me? Enlightenment.

Nowhere in my life have I been affiliated with something that represented and encouraged people to express themselves without fear of judgement or rejection.I was seeking to learn a way to defend myself from a threat as well as manage the fears and anxieties that challenged me throughout my life because of a childhood accident that left me with partial use of my left hand.

My size and demeanor masked an insecurity about my inability to defend myself in the event of a threat. Throughout my training I would be so consumed with anxiety the tension in my body would be immeasurable and clouded my ability to learn. If I had been training in the “traditional” culture I would have probably still been fodder for higher ranks to expose my insecurity and almost definitely would have failed miserably.

Today I am writing this essay because Shihan and Professor understood that there needs to be a place for “everyone else” who is seeking the knowledge for a purpose other than self-validation through a trophy or a medal. Fostering an environment of cooperation instead of festering competition is what makes it possible for me to write this today.

I can say I have met the most intrinsically “beautiful” people through my training on the mat –  true martial artists that have shown me how much of an impact the knowledge has on your life. These are men who put aside ego and personal reward in order to help elevate their juniors to the level of enlightenment they achieved.

Along the way a sense of inner calm has developed that has permeated through my personal life. I have developed a sensitivity to the needs of the people around me as well as a sensitivity to people whose inner angst shows through. The concept that Shihan describes as being “present” would have been impossible without Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in my life.

There is a dichotomy that has developed in my training that is indescribably rewarding. Letting go of the internal angst I struggled with has allowed me to develop a sense of calm during training that has opened my levels of awareness and provide me with clarity.

Yet my most rewarding moments are providing this insight to juniors I train with and watching them progress. Success stories for me involve mutually beneficial exchanges, myself and my partner able to achieve progress equally and to share in that experience.

Witnessing a classmate gain insight through that exchange and watching them blossom is the most rewarding experience I have ever felt. I feel it is an obligation I must provide as a means of “paying forward” all those people who gave to me through the years.

Bruce Lee has famously quoted martial arts as a way to “honestly express oneself”. In the past, I would look past that statement with little regard . Today those words resonate. I can thank the Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu community for this glorious gift I have received.