Commitment: Ms. Nova’s Journey From Student to Instructor

What does commitment mean to me? Well the simple answer is keeping my word, whether to myself or others. Before I started training I did not think much about commitment. I also was not committed to as many things, so there wasn’t much to think about. Since I started training that word has become a constant both in my vocabulary, and my thoughts. My definition of the word hasn’t changed, but I have, and therefore so has my approach to it.

I started training because I wanted fitness and self-defense. I’m 4’11” and recognize most people are bigger then me. I wanted to feel like I could protect myself. Little did I know by starting at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu there was a transformation ahead of me. I started in the basic class like everyone and I remember watching the advanced class and being in awe of the speed, control and fitness I saw. I wanted to be there so much. So as I started to progress and get closer to that class I was asked what kind of black belt did I want to be. I had no idea. Honestly I hadn’t thought much about it. At that point I was happy with letting my life take me wherever it wanted to go. I had no drive or direction. I knew though that the question of black belt wasn’t just, “do I want to be one”, it was “who do I want to be when I receive one”. This led me to think about what direction my life was taking. Since I wasn’t committed to anything I had nothing to work towards. Now I did, a black belt. I wanted it because I wanted something to work towards. Something that was in line with my beliefs. Something that would help me become the person I wanted to be. Now when I think commitment, I think black belt.

At the time I was working a retail job I didn’t like. I had more bad days than good ones. One day, I was walking home from a good day at work. I was trying to figure out what had caused it to be such a good day. I realized that it was because nothing bad had happened. I decided I was not ok with this. I decided I was not ok with defining good days as nothing bad happening. I wanted to be in control of my good days, to create them, not let them happen to me. I wanted to define my good days as positive things happening and helping others. I knew what made me happiest, my time at the dojo. So I started spending more time there. I recognized my commitment to the dojo was also a commitment to the philosophies of BBJJ, to black belt.

The main philosophy of our dojo is a Japanese word, kaizen. The definition is “good change”, but to those of us who train it means constant and never-ending improvement. I made a commitment to this idea. The change in me was small at first, in little almost unnoticeable ways. First, it was just my commitment to going to class, showing up was enough for me back then. Then as my training grew more complex it became a commitment to improve techniques, the calisthenics I did, eating habits and also, although I didn’t realize this at first, my attitude. I have always counted myself a positive person, I find the brighter side of life a more enjoyable place to live in. Despite this, there were areas in my life where I didn’t bring that attitude with me, and one was my family.

When I started training I didn’t have a  positive relationship with my dad. Since I had committed myself to kaizen I recognized I needed to improve this part of my life if I wanted to stay committed to this concept. I reached out to Professor Lynch and Shihan Dunn and, with their guidance, for the first time in my life I saw him for the person he truly was and loved him for that.

This reconciliation with my father never would have happened had I not begun training. Training led to re-evaluating my thoughts about commitment and deciding to be committed to kaizen. This caused me to honestly recognize what areas in my life I needed to improve. I believe the months of training before I did this were mentally preparing me to be open to this change. It was like seeing sunshine for the first time, never knowing you lived in the dark. I saw everything in my life in a different light. When he passed away last year I was at peace. I had said everything I needed to say and got almost a year of happiness with him after over a decade of pain. I thank my training for this blessing.

Sticking to my commitments isn’t always easy. In fact there are times I stumble and fall. But I’m not committed to being perfect, I’m committed to not letting a mistake stop me. My mantra has become, if you fall 7 times, get up 8. So by committing to kaizen, to black belt, I have committed to creating the life I have always wanted. It all started because I walked into BBJJ. It changed my life for the better and has continued to do so everyday since I decided to commit to it.