Few things create the reality of how small a single man can become. The confidence we feel within the confines of our daily routine is simply an illusion so that we may feel safe. Humans need such an illusion if we are to go about our daily lives and prosper, create and grow; fear, panic and survival are not positive positions to live out our lives in. Hope lies in acknowledging our fragility and learning how to adapt beyond our obvious fragility. The main lesson I learned in my sixth jiu-jitsu class is that I am not a big, strong man, but if I let go of trying to be something I am not, then I can become something equally effective.
At 5’6″ and 190 pounds, I am not a big human. However, I live my daily life surrounded by 12 year old boys, and perhaps that gives me a false sense of my own size and powers. Within the first twenty minutes of class six at Toronto No Gi this week, my perceptions were permanently altered. The topic of the class was how to escape an armbar, which is one of the most common and successful submissions in jiu-jitsu. I had been working hard on the previous week’s lesson on the arm drag, and I spent more than a few hours with kettle bells, core exercises and strength work. Learning how to escape an armbar was rather exciting; learning what an armbar was also gave me a moment of anticipation. The thrill of the armbar rapidly descended into panic as I mounted my partner and realized that both his size and enormous strength was going to have me a lifeless mass after a few minutes.
One thing that I truly appreciate about the partners I have worked with at the Toronto No Gi club is that they are all patient with new white belts. Each person has taken care not to overwhelm my abilities immediately; each one lets me get a feel for how the technique works and explains what I need to improve until the speed and power behind each move steadily rises. As the technique was refined more and more by the class instructor, I began to feel the full weight of my training partner as I was rag-dolled through a roll and escape. With my knees pressed into the cheeks of my face I clearly felt the force that jiu-jitsu can place against a weaker opponent. Goliath wins when the weapons are his to strength.
What I realized as the class ended was that I would need to find my own weapons, my own slingshots. Armbars, triangles, leg locks might never be in my wheelhouse, as my limbs are too thick and short. Like a game of chess, each mind plays best using certain tactics and pieces; my play is most deadly when I have my rooks and one bishop remaining. I simply need to reflect on what my actual strengths are and then try to build a game around that if my David is to ever submit a Goliath. Until that time I will continue to relish in learning how the jiu-jitsu game is played and learn the lessons of survival I am being taught on a weekly basis.
Beyond jiu-jitsu I was able to put 600 km on my new Ducati Diavel motorcycle before the end of the season forced me to garage the beast for the winter. Unfortunately, the Diavel had a defect in the rear Pirelli Diablo tire and tread was torn almost down to the bottom. Fortunately, the wonderful team at GP Bikes was able to replace the tire under warrant with no cost to me other than the few hours of getting to and from the shop. I wish that I had been able to ride more during the Fall, but that is something to look forward to in the next season. Every season has its treasures; winter is coming so let us all take shelter in the things and activities which brings us overwhelming joy.