Professor Dunn’s Advice to Adult Graduates, Fall 2013

I’m here to tell you today that you should not consider yourself a bjj practitioner. I know it’s shocking, but after I’m done and have presented the evidence, I hope you’ll understand why I make this claim and what it has to do with you.

This is not about the art, on a purely technical level. It’s not about moves or a different kind of guard, or the pros and cons of the newest submission from the back.In fact, it’s got only a little bit to do with you when you’re training and a lot bit to do with when you’re not training.

Part of the reason why is because you should be, must be, have to be starting to separate yourself from the ideology that’s developing around the mainstream culture of jiujitsu. It’s a worldview that claims to be against the grain, an alternative lifestyle, when in reality it supports the same compromised morality that’s reared its head in competitive bicycling or major baseball doping.

The culture of jiu-jitsu worldwide still embraces a competitive, you-or-me, zero-sum-game philosophy. It still hasn’t looked at the dangers of unmediated aggression in the classroom. It hasn’t considered the impact of a dominance-based approach to human interactions.

There is no longevity. No sustainably. What we’re left with us a war of attrition – a dangerous prospect for anyone who’s planning a long and healthy life.

So I’m here to tell you not to consider yourself a bjj practitioner. Not to align yourself with a philosophy of no-philosophy. Not to search for lessons in responsibility and community and unity where they don’t exist.

I’m here to tell you not to consider yourself a bjj practitioner, but rather to consider yourself a student of BBJJ. To set yourself apart from the 97% and take a quantum leap forward for yourself and the people you care about. To put your philosophy first.

We ask you to be responsible on the mat, but real responsibility begins off the mat. It begins with the attitude you develop to create the life you wish to lead, and the world you wish to lead it in.  We’re witnessing the results of ultimate communication breakdown in the world right now; the final expression of the competitive, ego-based approach to challenges is “either you or me”. When I spoke to a student with family in the Middle East, he said “it’s not getting better, it has gotten worse: now it’s ‘you or me'”. The macro of the micro is war.

Imagine recreating that in your martial arts day after day and then being surprised when it shows up in the world.

So consider today where you hope you’ll be – where the world will be – and whether your “philosophy in practice” will bring you there. Because it’s been shown throughout history that no one can serve two masters. Consider the options, consider the  philosophy you intend to develop. Consider the student creed and the principles of your martial arts. Consider what you’ve been learning and how you want to use it. Consider yourself a warrior, a creator, a supporter, a participant. Consider your influence, your associations, your affiliations.

Taking a step forward as a martial artist today, recognize that you’re a student of this philosophy – of giving and caring and changing. Of evolution and effort and practice. Of failure and trying and pain and frustration. Of loyalty and passion and friendship. Of sincere effort, clear purpose, of true aim.

This is the BBJJ philosophy. You are a BBJJ student. You have a chance to transform yourself through your practice – and through your philosophy, you have a real chance to impact the world every day.