I’ve played many sports over the years. Some I’ve passionately enjoyed. Many were fun ways to pass the time. Other’s were boring and only done out of a sense of obligation. Jiu-jitsu is the only sport that has made me cry.
What jiu-jitsu brings, that the others don’t, is honesty. Honesty about yourself and who you are as a person. It raises a mirror to our personality and shows us that we are not who we believe we are.
We all have a sense of self, a belief of what we are capable of in a variety of situations. This is our ego. Sometimes we underestimate our capabilities, but most of the time we overestimate them. When we understand our capabilities, it’s usually due to a sense of false modesty.
Our ego is not an accurate assessment of who we are.
For most of us, this is fine. We don’t live like our ancestors did. Today’s lives are comfortable, safe, secure. Life doesn’t often test the boundaries of our capabilities, but when it does, TV, alcohol, internet or other drug of choice is there to ease the pain.
Jiu-jitsu tests our boundaries repeatedly. This sounds like a good thing, an opportunity to stretch, to grow, to improve. But our boundaries are often closer than we think they are. Being forced to confront this, pains us emotionally.
We like to pretend that we don’t judge others, but we do. We measure ourselves, our self worth, against others. I’m better than him, but she’s better than me. We mentally arrange ourselves into a pecking order. We understand mentally that people improve at different rates, but when someone whom we’ve placed below us in the pecking order surpasses us, we feel that emotional pain. Their progress shouldn’t reflect on how we feel about ourselves, yet it does.
In jiu-jitsu, the submission forces you to be honest. When you tap, there’s no way to rationalise yourself out of it. It doesn’t matter if the other person was less skilled, and merely bigger, stronger or more athletic. The tap means you acknowledge that they beat you. You’re not as good as your ego tells you. What does that tell you about your personality? Are you the sort of person that takes it as a challenge to overcome or do you turn back when the going gets tough? Do you like what jiu-jitsu tells you about yourself?
Jiu-jitsu is hard. To learn is to get beaten, to get frustrated. To survive, you must learn to love the frustration.
We do jiu-jitsu, we know how hard it is. Some days, just turning up and getting on the mat feels like the hardest thing you’ve ever done. What earns the respect of the old timers is showing up, getting beaten and showing up again. Tenacity and perseverance is how you improve.
Jiu-jitsu gives us many things, the most valuable being insight. Insight into who we are as a person. How we behave under pressure. How we relate to others and how we judge others. We learn our physical limits and learning this, have the opportunity to expand them. We learn what works for us. To learn jiu-jitsu is to learn one’s self.