Mario L

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.