Over the past 14 months I have had the honor of being part of the Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community.
On my very first day I felt absolutely welcome and supported (nearly to the point that I questioned whether the enthusiasm in receiving me was genuine). I was amazed by how much the instructors and my training partners appeared to be aware of and preoccupied by the various challenges that a busy 39 year old husband and father of two could be facing at the beginning of his journey towards black belt: self-consciousness, utter physical discomfort, lack of time, and the sense that the goal is so far that it’s not even worth committing to it.
In the following weeks I developed the ‘addiction’ to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as I realized it was the absolutely perfect mission for me to embark in, for the following reasons: First and foremost, the intellectual challenge – I find the complexity of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques absolutely fascinating, and as a result feel both that I am learning something really valuable for my intellectual development and that I get the luxury to ‘leave the world outside the door’ when I am training; second, the increased sense that I’m now part of a team, that needs me as much as I need them to grow and learn; lastly, the fact that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a space where I get to fully concentrate on myself and, within the framework of safety and respect that I not only adhere to but fully embrace, don’t have to worry about anybody but me.
Over the months, my degree of commitment kept increasing, as I began to experience the positive effects of the training: I progressively shed pounds (am now 35 pounds lighter and often look at my four year old daughter, wondering how could I possibly go about life with ‘her strapped to my back’ all the time); I became confident that my journey is mine only, and it really doesn’t matter if some of the people that I saw starting in the beginner’s class a few months after me got their blue belt before me; I began to realize that getting to black belt is not a goal in itself – it’s a lifestyle – in the very same way that being in shape is a lifestyle – not something with a beginning and an end.
I approach the achievement of the blue belt as an absolutely grounding step in the direction of the black belt. I expect it to further strengthen my commitment to myself and the team, increase my degree of confidence in my physical and mental abilities, and allow me to further explore some of the unknown areas of my body and my spirit that I only got a glimpse of so far.
The first day I entered the BBJJ Myrtle dojo was this past summer. It was during a very difficult time for me (economic struggle, just broke up from a long time relationship, low self-esteem, confusion about what was my next step toward the future), and I knew I needed to make a change quickly before getting swallowed by it. I remember I’ve walk pass the school a couple of times, always telling myself “I wish I could be doing that”. Martial arts have always been a passion for me since I can remember. Obviously, as a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut and a ninja. And as part of that, I started practicing Tae Kwon Do from 9 until 14 years old. I was just one belt away from getting my black belt, but economic struggles in my family forced them to take me out of training. That’s a spine that has always remained in me, wondering “what if?”
I was charmed into coming in by the introductory lesson/free uniform offer. I remember Miss Nova behind the counter greeting me with a big smile as always. She convinced me to take the lesson immediately, and just like that I started taking classes to see if I really wanted to do it. Honestly, I was amazed at how my body responded and how my mind could grasp so much in so little time. Like it was waiting for it forever and now it wanted to absorb everything. The training was hard, no doubt about that, but my head and my body reacted with ease to every new lesson. When it was time to say yes or no to the commitment, I only had $200 dollars on my account, no job, and only a job interview a couple of days away. But I couldn’t say no to my mind and my body.
From there, things have developed in a very positive way. I got the job I was interviewing for, my body is probably in the best shape it has ever been, my mind is calmer, my self-esteem is back. But more important, I discovered my love for jiu jitsu. Not only because it feels natural to my whole being, but because it brings me happiness in the shape of making others be better. I have always said that the only way that I can measure my knowledge is if I can successfully teach others what I know. When Prof. Lynch asked me what kind of black belt I wanted to be, my answer was clear: The kind of black belt that finds happiness in making others better. I definitely feel that I’m growing as a martial artist individual on a pretty fast pace, but I’m aware that there’s some slowing down already starting to happen and that’s a natural part of the process. What I can’t deny is the impact that I’m having on the people around me. I’ve lost count of how many basic students have trained with me and told me at the end how good I was as a teacher. And how many advance students have confessed their surprise at the level of my jiu jitsu at this early point. I don’t want to sound vain by any chance, but that to me is happiness, plain and simple. I’m going to hold on to this with all my strength, and hopefully I can become an official family member of BBJJ. I’m very grateful, and I just can’t wait for what’s next! Oss!
I am not sure where to begin on how to express the significant changes that have occurred since starting the Muay Thai program here at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.
First and foremost, I have conquered the ‘ I don’t have time’ and the ‘I am not sure I can do this or that’ statements. I have been able to overcome the ‘fear’ of it all. I am able to participate in classes with certainty that we all started at square one. This was a ‘first’ for us all.
Secondly, positivity is all around us. Everyone in the program from Professor, to the teachers, to the classmates have positivity oozing out of them. The greeting as soon as you walk through the door makes you instantly feel like you belong there. The senior students in the class coach you along the way and they never make you feel insecure in your abilities. They provide constant encouragement and helpful tips along this journey.
This is so important to me because it gives you the self confidence and motivation that you need to do this. If you can do this, then what’s to say you can’t do something else you thought you wouldn’t be able to? One of the best parts of class is the end. When we high five each other and offer one compliment to our partners. For some of us that may be the only positive statement we hear that day or even that week. It makes a person feel good about themselves that someone else recognizes an achievement that they made.
The energy level that I have gained is amazing. Honestly, I have always been the ‘on the go Mom’. With four kids I have to be. This is the one thing that I do that is just for me. After 12 hours at work each day who wants to have to go to class? But because this makes me feel good and it makes me happy I find the energy within myself. I actually leave class with more energy then what I had before class. I wake up every day ready to conquer what the world has in store for me.
I believe in the three D’s. Determination, discipline and dedication. The Muay Thai program pushes me everyday to follow these three D’s. One doesn’t work without the other. I have more energy, have great exercise everyday and a bonus is making some friends along the journey to black belt.
This is has been one of the best decisions I could have ever made for myself. I cannot wait to see what’s in store for me in the days, months or years to come.