The true pillars of jiu-jitsu are the 25-45-year-old “middle-aged” men and women who juggle training with their careers, family lives, finances, and other everyday stresses. Despite all these time constraints and mental hurdles, they still make time to go to jiu-jitsu class and grind through the rounds in order to improve their lifestyles and become better people. They train for the love of the sport, not for the hopes of fame, glory, and prize money like most professional grapplers. They don’t compete for gold medals, but rather they compete with themselves in the training room order to combat their everyday anxieties and life challenges. Their goals are not to be a world champion, but to be a better version of themselves each and every day.
As a full time, jiu-jitsu nut and avid competitor, my life is pretty simple. I generally: wake up, eat, coffee, train, shower, eat, nap, wake, snack, teach some classes, train, shower, eat, sleep, and repeat. I’ve forgotten how difficult it can be to juggle school, work, family, and jiu-jitsu. And not to mention having some semblance of a social life that does not involve being choked or twisted in opposing directions. There was a time when I struggled with balancing life and jiu-jitsu. Now, jiu-jitsu is my life. But I respect immensely the people who have greater priorities in their lives but still consistently show up to training without excuses.
Even when I was balancing my life obligations with training, it wasn’t nearly as complicated as it could have been. I only had to worry about school and a job at a bank that cared nothing about. It was simply a means to pay for gas and training. Training was always my priority. But real jiu-jitsu heroes are those who CANNOT make jiu-jitsu their number one priority, but still, find time to put in time on the mat. Without a doubt, no matter how much you love training, your spouse, kids, and mortgage will take an incomparable priority over jiu-jitsu. After all, it is just a hobby for most practitioners. But this makes it just that much more impressive when men and women with careers and kids find time to come to jiu-jitsu class and train for 2 hours in the mornings or evenings. Not only are they improving themselves, but also as a dedicated training partner, they are improving the lives of everyone with whom they train.
I have the utmost respect for working professionals who struggle to make time for jiu-Jitsu, which in turn is a massive struggle in itself. It is the struggle of jiu-jitsu that helps us evolve into better, healthier, and happier people. It’s the ultimate reality check. It helps us clear our busy minds. Surely when we are struggling to wiggle free from a chokehold that takes us to the edge of consciousness, we cannot possibly think of anything else except to just breath and try to escape the position. Life’s little problems that cause you daily stress become insignificant when you have to fight for every breath against an opponent who wishes to strangle you.
The thing about jiu-jitsu is that you cannot do it on your own. As a practitioner, we NEED other practitioners in order to train. No one ever became a champion on his or her own. No one ever drilled techniques by themselves in an empty mat room and then went on to become a black belt or a competitive champion. No one ever experienced the real jiu-jitsu experience without training partners. Our training partners are integral to our jiu-jitsu experience. They are what make the experience so special. They are what make the jiu-jitsu experience so unique. Each person brings something unique to the training session. Everyone has a different body type, a different style of jiu-jitsu, or a different training strategy. Each person brings a unique challenge for you to struggle with, and it is persevering through that struggle that you evolve into a better grappler and ultimately a better person.
I want to express my gratitude for my training partners – both competitors and non-competitors alike. I appreciate them for sacrificing their time with their families to train with me. I appreciate them for waking up extra early or spending hours in traffic in order to contribute to our training environment. I appreciate them for diligently persevering when they feel frustrated with their perceived lack of progress. I appreciate them for powering through a workday, and still showing up to train no matter how tired they are. I appreciate them because they are the ones who support the growth of the sport, and consequently, they are the ones who make it possible for me to live the life that I live.