I was chatting with a friend earlier, and I made an off the cuff remark that knowing jiu-jitsu has been like finally buying the Corvette you wanted as a teenager. When I was a kid, I saw the tiny ads in the back of magazines for Judo books, and I thought it would be so cool to be able to use my bare hands and technique to defend myself and take out guys that weren’t as prepared as me. Sure enough, I also had a poster on my wall of every model year Corvette. Dreams are never lonely. And those dreams remained dreams.
Fast forward to 1993, and I’m in my early 20s, watching the first UFC fights. Now the dream became jiu-jitsu when I saw the stunning results of jiu-jitsu against any martial art arrayed against it. Forward again to February 2010, when I found out there was a jiu-jitsu academy an hour away that had just opened six months before. I saw my dreams jump into the realm of possibility. I didn’t care that I was 37 or that I would spend as much time driving as training. I went down for a free class, and immediately signed up myself and my oldest daughter. I was told that getting a blue belt would take a year or two and to never ask for a promotion. I confidently predicted I’d have my blue belt in a year. Many expectations and misconceptions would be shattered over the next few years.
So I started to drive down three to four times a week, and found out that doing P90x didn’t hold a candle to two hours of jiu-jitsu. The first few months were brutal as I built my endurance, learned to rely on technique rather than strength, and started to see the elegance and simplicity of the art. I gradually got in the best shape of my life, and obtained physical skills valuable to me.
After six months of training, I could confidently hold off new guys fresh from the street. After a year I felt like I was a force to be reckoned with, except when I sparred with the purple belt academy owner and the black belt head instructor. With them I would measure survival in seconds. I evolved. By the time I got my blue belt (and not in a year), I realized the belts mean very little when you plan on following this path for life. By the time I got my purple belt, I found that teaching was as rewarding as learning the seeming infinity of branching options that jiu-jitsu gave me. The purple marked the beginning of being an expert, and seeing on the horizon what I could work to become.
I was never bored because there was always something to learn. I found the addiction of competition and testing my skills against unknown opponents all over the northeast. I gained a brotherhood and a community that thrives on sharing and helping individuals achieve their personal goals. It is part of the DNA of the art, and it infects like a virus that creates better people.
Now I am headed towards a brown belt, then a black belt. It is as inevitable as the fact that no jiu-jitsu belts come easy, and I will shed a lake of sweat to get there. This dream consumes me day and night. I study on and off the mat, not for a rank, but because jiu-jitsu fascinates me. I spar with anyone, learn from everyone, and stay until the last sparring partner calls it quits while I look around for anybody else to train with. The dream of jiu-jitsu becomes reality every time I step on the mat, and it creates more dreams and goals than I may ever be able to explore in the rest of my life.
I couldn’t care less about the Corvette.