Reading Sebastian Junger’s Tribe, made me start to think about why I love Jiu-jitsu so much. Not that I can sit here and attribute my understanding of personal growth or adulthood to a trivial quote or even a series of quotes that I found in the pages of a book…because I can’t. My life hasn’t been rainbows and butterflies, it hasn’t been perfect, but it hasn’t been devoid of love and support. There are groups of people that exist without love and support, and saying they “exist” is an important label. It’s widely known that people who live in constant struggle are less likely to commit suicide or dig themselves into addiction. Some could argue that this is because they belong to a group, or a tribe. Some could argue its because they don’t have time to feel sorry for themselves as their survival requires them to be tuned up and tuned into their environment. Struggle often breeds strong people, abuse often breeds strong and independent people, and neglect often breeds disconnected people. Focusing on the GROUP, or the tribe, we can see how the need put forth by the whole would motivate someone to remain steadfast and tuned in. Its often at the point that we lose our sense of worth, our sense of belonging, that we struggle with living. The less fortunate of us struggle with living once they lose monetary wealth...or the fruits of pursuing such wealth and status...
I spent my life looking for something that made me feel like I belonged. I spent over 30+ years and countless endeavors attempting to find something that ticked all of the boxes for me…I plated High School Football and Soccer, Graduated High School, Graduated College, Joined a Fraternity, Earned a Masters Degree, and somewhere in the midst of that…I joined the Military…and still, nothing ticked that box…nothing made me feel like a piece of the puzzle. Of all the different groups, of all the different collectives, work groups, classrooms, friendships, teams, flights, and family…nothing forced me to STRUGGLE. Nothing forced me to work hard…nothing held me to a standard and required me to stay tuned up…and tuned in.
At 31 years old…I threw on a pair of shorts (without pockets) and a T-shirt and I walked into my first Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class with a buddy from work. As an avid shooter, gym goer, and fitness enthusiast…I had no idea what my body and my mind had signed up for. Within a couple of weeks, I Was Wearing a Gi and donning my White Belt. I had pains I had never experienced before, soreness and fatigue that crept up after half an hour of rolling…and a weird sense of wanting to experience it all more often than I already was. The first three months I attended class once a week and continued to run, bike, and workout the other five training days of the week. The next three months I attended class twice a week and I stopped working out after class. Over the course of the next six months, I would start training consistently three days a week and within my first year I had competed in a local tournament and won. My Jiu-Jitsu training had replaced several of my gym training days and my workouts became functional workouts tailored to My Game (The Guard). I would suffer hyper extended elbows, a broken nose, busted lips, jammed fingers and toes, and a torn Bicep in my first two years of training…but I had a renewed sense of purpose…a drive to succeed and the will to do so…
After the first 18 months of training…I started to realize that I had checked the box…I had found my TRIBE. I found my people…A collection of Veterans, Guardsmen, Law Enforcement Officers, EMTs, Firefighters, Doctors, Veterinarians, Mothers, Fathers…but most importantly it was my collection of Brothers and Sisters. This group of people, by vast majority, was willing to check their pride at the door and leave everything on the mats. No hard feelings, no ill will…just the desire to sharpen iron with iron and measure ourselves and our abilities for five to ten minutes at a time…only stopping for Taps and the Clock.
It may be cliché but as much as I can attribute Jiu-Jitsu to being my compass…and being what keeps me sane…Jiu-Jitsu saved my life and filled the void I had felt for decades. I can’t imagine being on this journey with anyone other than my Tribe and our Chief…Coach Rob. The art itself and the atmosphere created by a sense of belonging and achievement is what keeps me grinding and reminds me that this Journey, just like life, is the ALWAYS JOURNEY. It has no destinations…just a few stops along the way.