A few months ago, I was going through some of our monthly bills and took a look at what I was being charged for cable TV. The bill, which included phone, cable and internet, was over $200. If I remember correctly, it read $212 and change. Since I had opted for business class internet with a static IP when we moved into this house, I kind of let things go for a while. I always attributed the high bill to my business necessities.
But as I took a closer look, I noticed that somehow, the cable TV portion of the expense had risen to just over $80. $80? For TV? This surprised me a bit because all we had was basic cable and I’m sure I wouldn’t have agreed to an $80 TV package when I was getting the whole thing set up in the first place. Then I remembered the, “Get cable TV for only $9.99 per month for the first three months” thing. I was in a rush when I signed up. I agreed to the deal, not knowing what the charge would be after the grace period. Live and learn, I suppose.
I walked downstairs and asked Laura if she knew how much our limited cable package was costing us. She didn’t. I said, “$80 per month.” Her jaw almost hit the ground and she quickly replied, “So cancel it.” I thought that was a swell idea and upon my return to my desk, I did just that. I called Comcast and cancelled the TV portion of the bundle. A month or so later, I also cancelled the phone portion, which was costing over $56 per month. Now, we’re left with only internet, which is just fine.
I bring this up because I want to talk about a show we’ve been recently watching on Hulu, called “The Practice.” This was very popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s. We’re watching the reruns – you may remember it. It was one of my favorites of all time, hence our interest in watching it again.
Just a few nights ago, and possibly even the same night as the New England Submission Challenge, we saw a particular episode where one of the characters, Ellenor Frutt, got herself in some trouble. After the drama of the legalese and when things were said and done, Ellenor had come to realize that her entire firm had dropped everything they were currently working on to help her get out of her jam. They came to her aid and things ended with her emotionally thanking her fellow characters. It was a good episode.
I’ve had a browser tab open on my computer for at least a week. It’s holding, in limbo, a page written by Sam Harris, called, “The Pleasures of Drowning.” I’ve been holding this page because a while ago, I’d decided that I was going to write a rebuttal to Sam’s piece. Well, perhaps not a rebuttal – maybe more of a response. But the more I read what he wrote, the more I think I should just let things stand. It is what it is and all I want from it now is to borrow a few very choice nuggets of wisdom. And I would only make myself look like a fool if I tried to compare and contrast anything Sam Harris says. He’s quite beyond me and even if I can claim to know more about Jiu-Jitsu than this man, I’d look like a fool. I’ll leave this one for Seth to beat down on his up-and-coming blog.
In “The Pleasures of Drowning,” Sam talks about a good many thing, and what he claims he’ll discuss early on is…
“…that training in BJJ offers a powerful lens through which to examine some primary human concerns—truth v. delusion, self knowledge, ethics, and overcoming fear.”
And he does. He does discuss much of what he says he will, but I have to admit, what I mostly took away from this article was Sam’s strong comparisons between BJJ to other martial arts. I’ll also admit that I wish he would’ve stayed more along the lines of what I felt from reading his title and the one line I placed above. I wish he had talked more about the personal challenges of the sport and what one goes through during their journey. The “drowning” aspect is spot on and if you, or anyone you know, has ever taken part in the learning of BJJ, you’ll probably agree that you’ve felt like you were drowning at one point or another.
While much of Sam’s piece talks about the more historic aspects of boxing, karate, tae kwon do and even the UFC, he does discuss something I very much liked reading (right in the middle of his article)…
“To train in BJJ is to continually drown—or, rather, to be drowned, in sudden and ingenious ways—and to be taught, again and again, how to swim.”
I can write a post about the drowning aspects of Jiu-Jitsu in the future and if Seth does decide to talk about Sam’s article, we can go back and forth via comments, but for now, I’ll simply recommend you read “The Pleasures of Drowning.” I know my departure from this topic (by the little hyphen below) may seem abrupt, but what I wanted to accomplish was to merely mention the fact that there was, in fact, a good article floating around out there that covers many aspects of the various martial arts among us. But please don’t be discouraged, because I do have a plan for this post and I hope to wrap up each section I write about down towards the end.
When I first arrived at the New England Submission Challenge this past Saturday, I was greeted by a smiling friend of mine. He was all hopped up with excitement because of his impending match, which, as it turned out, began about two minutes after we initially saw one another.
His name is Rich and even though we’ve only met and rolled (he tapped me out with and ankle lock during our last go-round) a few times, we get along really well. He’s mentioned in the past that he likes our game together because we’re built very similarly. We’re taller and thinner than most and we get to flow pretty nicely. I expressed the same sentiment – that it was refreshing to feel some new blood on the mat, especially with someone so skilled.
If you want to watch his match in the video I posted above, you can see how he prefers to go after the legs and feet. Those aren’t tops on my list, but knowing how to defend against them certainly does help.
After I talked to and took some video of Rich, I bumped into Seth, Jeff, Brad, Rob and the list goes on. I saw Chris and Brandon and Gerry and so many more people I know. It was cool, to say the least. We were all thrilled to be at the tournament and enjoyed watching the matches. I’m sure the beautiful weather helped, but let’s try to ignore than for the moment.
As I was watching the matches and expanding my media collection, I began noticing something that was strikingly different about that morning than so many other sporting events I’ve seen in the past. I started noticing the lack of bravado – the lack of yelling and screaming and the general sense of the spectator thinking they could do better than those who were on the mat. If you’ve ever been to a sports bar where a bunch of out of shape guys are watching a baseball game or boxing match, you probably know what I’m talking about. It’s the guys who can recite the stats of a player who oftentimes know nothing of lifting themselves out of their seats to try, themselves, the endeavor on the screen they’ve so intensely glued themselves to.
I attribute the behavior and respect at this Saturday’s tournament to empathy. Since many of those who were spectating are heavily involved with what they were watching, there was a lot of, “Yeah, I’ve been in that spot before.” There was an understanding and a feeling of struggle that, if you’re reading this, you can most likely relate to. And if you’re an avid Youtube Jiu-Jitsu fan as I am, and if you clench your muscles when you see anything Jiu-Jitsu, we may be related.
Since I’ve been involved in the sport of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I’ve been exposed to no shortage of fundraisers. I won’t mentioned what they are and were specifically here, but what I’d like to express is that in this sport, people care about each other. If something happens to one, it sort of happens to all. I’ve been on the receiving end of countless numbers of emails asking for help.
While I’m (somewhat ashamed) not one for getting involved in other people’s business, I must admit, I would be moved if an email, one day, were to be sent about a challenge I was up against. And if friends of mine – or people I didn’t know – acted upon it, it would most likely be life changing. For years, I’ve promoted self reliance, and for years it’s worked out, but I am well aware that many of us live life on the edge of what society has to offer and oftentimes if one thing goes wrong, the whole house of cards can tumble. The lack of Karma I’ve built through the years is becoming more prevalent in my life and I swear, one of these days I’ll remedy it. It’s sort of like having a near death experience – only after you feel it do you do something about it.
By this point, you’re probably asking yourself what in the world I’m talking about. Why did I break this post up into sections and where am I headed? What I’ve written so far is seemingly unrelated.
But if you look closely at the parts, you’ll notice that there is, in fact, and underlying theme. Where I wrote about “The Practice,” I mentioned how all the members of the law firm rallied behind Ellenor. In the next section, I alluded to a difference between Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and other martial arts and in the section about the New England Submission Challenge, I wrote about how easy it is to make good friends in this sport. Lastly, I mentioned fundraisers and how frequent they bubble to the surface in the Jiu-Jitsu community. If you’ve trained for more than six months, I bet you can think of at least two instances where you were asked directly or indirectly to get involved in a cause.
I guess the point of this post was to explore what the “Jiu-Jitsu family” is and how it came to be. What is it that separates Jiu-Jitsu from so many other activities and why is it that we become so close to each other? For years, I’ve asked myself that question and I think I may have finally found the answer.
I used to play tennis at the Glastonbury Tennis Club. I played for a while before finally realizing I was no tennis star, nor was I ever going to become one. After about a year, I decided that my time with tennis was ripe to come to a close and began searching for another life long love. You can read about how that happened on my “About Me” page.
While at the tennis club, I made a few friends. I talked to a few guys and gals, but during the entire year there, I can’t remember one instance of being invited to someone’s house. I can’t recall any invitations for a cup of coffee or a chat over pizza after a game. And strangely enough, I can’t remember one occasion of touching someone beyond the handshake. There were no arm grabs, no takedowns and no triangles. Really, there was nothing but grunting after a nice shot and a whole lot of anger after a lousy one. From what I’ve noticed, tennis is a relatively sterile sport.
The first week I played Jiu-Jitsu with Jeff, he and Pete asked if I wanted to grab lunch with them after class. I declined because I probably felt like a dork. I had no idea what I could offer to any conversation they may be bound to have and I probably thought they were merely being polite for asking.
A few weeks later, Jeff asked if I would stop by his house to help him move a dresser. I agreed to help and while I was at Jeff’s place, I met his entire family. I’ve met Pete’s family on a number of occasions and have met pretty much everyone who is anyone to anyone I roll with. I even drove to Florida with Seth a few month’s ago. I hadn’t known him for more than a few months prior.
So what’s going on? Why is it that friends become friends in this sport? Why is it that I only made one friend during my Krav Maga and Muay Thai days, who I’ve sort of lost touch with but am confident that I’ll remain friends with so many of the guys and gals I’ve met through Jiu-Jitsu? Why is that?
Well, like I mentioned above, I think I’ve found the answer and it’s got to do with blood, sweat and tears (maybe). Trying times and personal challenge bring people together. But not only that, touch does as well.
This may be a stretch, but how many times have you seen blood on the mat? I can’t count the times. How many times have you worn a nice white gi to only find red marks on the pant leg and sleeve, only to ask, “Where the heck did that come from? The classic wiping of the face and looking around the room always follows. Then, the “not me.”
How many times have to sweat on the mat? Do I even have to ask this? I sweat in anticipation before I even change into my gi. This is a no brainer.
How many times have you cried on the mat? I bet you haven’t, but I bet people have. Just this weekend, a girl’s arm was hyperextended due to an aggressive armbar and as she lay there, I’m fairly certain she cried. She couldn’t not have. She was in pain and the stress of the competition most surely put her over the edge.
All these things bring us together more and more every time we train with each other and as time goes on, we get get closer and closer as a great big family. And in some cases, more of a family than our real brothers and sisters. Ask yourself about the last time a family member has cared as deeply about an interest of yours as someone has from your Jiu-Jitsu academy. Ask yourself about the last time a family member has cared as deeply about your progress. It’s eye opening.
But there’s touch at play here as well. I remember after I lost a tennis match, I would be forced into the walk of shame up to the net for a handshake. I wouldn’t even look the guy who beat me – much less look at him in the eye. I’d perform the shake, wander my eyes in any direction but his, and walk away. He was just some rich dude from Glastonbury anyway. What did I want his friendship for? He was probably up in the lobby telling folks about his win. The chuckles and dinner reservations were already made for him and my spaghetti and sauce were made by me.
After I trap a guy in my guard and do a hip bump to only watch him struggle for escape, I don’t gloat. After I get passed and held in side control, he doesn’t smile. We don’t have a fifteen minute match in soaking wet gis with red faces, to make dinner plans afterwards. You know what we do? We sit on the mat for a good long time afterward talking about what happened. We help each other figure out what went wrong and what went right. We analyze our games and discuss why none of us will ever be as good as we’d like. We’re all in the same boat and we know it. It’s ultimately our own battle and that becomes more and more evident the further each one of us goes. The more we play, the more we separate ourselves from the pack to define who we are in this game, but we remember that it was us together who has allowed the progress we’ve achieved.
It’s tough, but as Seth said just last night, he doesn’t know where he would be without it. Now, that’s a statement I can respect.