What I’ve Learned the Last Seven Years of Training Jiu-jitsu

Today marks my 7 year anniversary training jiu-jitsu.

It’s crazy when I stop to think about the time I’ve invested in an art that has given me so much back. I feel like most people miss out on the true essence of the journey, instead focusing only on the short-term rewards of an otherwise long and arduous road. Looking back at the last seven years, there have been quite a few short-term rewards I have been proud of… the earning of a new stripe or belt and even a few gold medals combined with countless little achievements in training. These achievements are both personal achievements as well as the ability to partake and be alongside my students, peers and professors as they complete their own personal achievements.

The medals, the stripes and the belts have all been great. I have appreciated each accomplishment and have tried my best to not celebrate them for too long. I’ve been told I should probably celebrate more, take my medals out of the closet and maybe even display them so I can remind myself daily of how far I’ve come but the real accomplishments of my jiu-jitsu journey have not been material. I can only display the fruits of my seven year endeavor with my actions and my appreciation for the life I have and the people I share it with. Here are the most important things I’ve learned as I reflect on the last 7 years:

Just like in jiu-jitsu, nothing worth anything in life comes easy

I remember a few years back, I attended a belt ceremony and Professor Draculino was giving a speech after a few black belts were awarded. The speech resonates with me ’til this day. As Professor wrapped up his speech, his closing words were “jiu-jitsu is one of the only martial arts left where receiving your black belt is one of the hardest things you can ever do and I hope that for as long as I am alive, it never gets easier”. His words have given me the strength to endure most of the obstacles that have come my way both on and off the mats. Getting my ass kicked and learning how to get my ass kicked on a daily basis have given me an uncanny resilience to deal with whatever life throws at me. I have learned to embrace obstacles with the faith that I will endure. Jiu-jitsu has taught me this antifragility and this faith and perseverance were not developed overnight but through years of practice and getting back up after I’ve been knocked down.

Learning and self-improvement are the most important things

Before I started training jiu-jitsu, I used to joke with people that my goal in life was to be a career student. I would extend my joke that by the time I died, I’d have millions in student loan debt with a few PhDs and even a medical degree to show for it. At some point after, I discovered jiu-jitsu and though I did not know it at first, I realized my biggest attraction to jiu-jitsu was how it was fulfilling my satirical goal of becoming a career student. Master Carlos said that there is no winning or losing in jiu-jitsu, just winning and learning. It sounds cliche but if you take a second to realize it, life, just like jiu-jitsu is all about learning and being better than you were the day before. Whatever failures I’ve experienced in life and in jiu-jitsu, I have grown to learn from my mistakes and just be and do better, every single day.

Service to others

I am nothing without my students, my professors, my training partners and my friends and family. I was lucky enough to realize this early on and was fortunate enough to have an amazing support system throughout my journey. It has helped me realize the importance of service and because I fully acknowledge that I am where I am because of the help of others, I strive to be of service to everyone that crosses my path. I have learned that it is important to fill everyones cup so that they will have more to pour for others. In a community that only takes, nobody will have anything left to give. Always give to others so that everyone else will have more to give.

Lastly…

Stop Taking Life so Seriously

I’ve always been really hard on myself. I am a perfectionist and I hate losing. This is a difficult combination to live with especially when you encounter failure. In jiu-jitsu, for the better part of the last 7 years I have taken myself way too seriously, being upset with difficult training sessions, coming up short in competition and even feeling like I’m not fulfilling my full potential. I often feel the same in life. I often feel as if I’m not where I should be because of this or that and work my ass off to make the changes I seek to make. Over the last year especially, I’ve been learning and realizing that life, much like jiu-jitsu, is a game that is to be enjoyed. If you’re not enjoying yourself, what’s the point? Work your ass off but always remember that winning and losing, success and failure, life and death are all two sides of the same coin. Do what you love and love what you do but most importantly, take a step back and enjoy the ride. It’s never that serious.

Thank you for taking the time to read. The last seven years have been an intense rollercoaster of trials, tribulations, fulfillment and complete joy. Thank you to all of you that I have shared my journey with, who have read my writing and who support me near and far. I appreciate you more than you could ever imagine.

Also, huge thanks to Ashley for the photo here from my most recent competition. I think I might actually be enjoying myself and it only took 7 years.

As always, please share your thoughts and comments below.

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