Wow, that was strange. So, here it is: January 2nd and I have gone through my contact list telling everyone I know about my plan to abandon the American way in exchange for…driftin’ away. And, I gotta tell ya, I didn’t think it would be as difficult as it was.
I told the In-laws first, and that was pretty easy. They all looked at me and said “…Really? Okay…” and while my own Mother (capitalized out of respect 🙂 ) was initially shocked, her first question was “When can I come and visit”?
No, what was surprisingly difficult was telling my team mates at the gym. (The Ohio Combat Sports Academy, BTW…stop by if you are ever in Columbus, OH. Great group of guys; all are welcome!).
Anyway…there I was, standing in front of about twenty guys, having asked everyone to line-up cause I had an announcement to make. I started to tell everyone what my plan was: to quit my job, sell everything and move to Mexico, open a BJJ gym, and travel the world training BJJ. Now, there are a lot of guys at my school, and I know some of them better than others. We have a lot of white belts whom I may have known for as little as a couple weeks to a few months and a fair amount of blues that I have known for at least a couple years and some purples as well that go back as far as I do. But I was surprised that, in this group of guys (mostly white belts with a couple blues) I found it hard to tell my story.
As I stood there telling my plan to start a BJJ website, sell BJJ gis, and do the best I could to earn enough money to live in paradise I felt a tinge of emotion come over me as the words came falling out…it was hard to say it. My lower lip wanted to tremble. I don’t know if it was the fear of saying it out loud, as if saying it made the fear of this huge gamble that much more real, or if it was the connection I feel to my school and my team mates, but I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit to choking up just a little bit.
What saved the moment for me was the rush of applause that came from the line-up as I said the words “sell everything we own and move to Mexico.” I was really stunned at the overwhelming show of support at that moment. No one said “Are you crazy?” No one rolled their eyes, no one even stood there blankly. Everyone just smiled and started clapping. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. We call it the Jiu-Jitsu brotherhood, after all, right?
It made me question myself. Ya see, I have always figured that I was one of those “background” guys. One of those folks that was around that you might remember but probably not. Whenever I teach a class I really do my best to try and bring a new understanding of Jiu-Jitsu to the people in the room and I ALWAYS make sure to thank them for trusting me with their Jiu-Jitsu, but I never really figured that I weighed out as very significant in the big picture.
Well, let me tell ya, those guys made me feel like a hero that night. I just never thought that my role at our academy might be significant enough to garner all of that support.
Of all the communities, internet groups, support groups, social clubs, sporting teams, etc. in the world the BJJ community must certainly rank near the top when it comes to being supportive of their fellow players. I have a theory that it has to do with a grown man (or woman) stepping on the mat to face another grown man (or woman) in combat. We all stepped on the mat for the first time (or at some time) and surrendered our facade of toughness and invulnerability, that we mostly all carry around, to the man across the mat. It is as if we say “you can destroy me, we both know it, but I will trust in you blindly to be kind and to help me.” See, guys don’t do that! At least in America, men are raised to be “rugged individualists” capable of slaying mighty dragons, wooing the fairest ladies, and suffering no fools. We are all John Wayne on the outside.
Inside, however, we know this is not true. Most people will never have to admit this, of course, but the Jiu-Jitsu player has no choice. Every day, from the newest white belt to the black belt at the front of the class, we put our trust, our manhood (not like that guys…jeez…) in the hands of our teammates (actually…sometimes like THAT too; please wear a cup guys…it’s not for you, its for us 🙂 ) and even, sometimes, in the hands of our opponents (…eww). We secretly confess that we have weakness. This is why I think the BJJ community is so strong. When we offer our vulnerability to the man across the mat and he protects it, and helps us to become stronger, a respect is born. And a thankfulness, and an appreciation for your teammate springs from this.
I’ve got so much stuff to do in the next 12 months: Distributor contracts, inventory acquisition, warehousing and fulfillment services, banking relationships, athlete sponsorships…the list goes on and on. I sometimes think I will never get it all done in time, let alone make a damned dime from it. But at the very least, I know I have the support of my teammates behind me and that is no small thing. Thanks guys! See ya OTM.