Learning and teaching are the two acts that fill most of my life’s work. I teach children how to read, write, speak and become better people. I learn how to improve my own skills and become a better person whenever I am not teaching, but also when I am. The art of becoming more with what little time we have in our lives is a frustratingly beautiful act of futility if we perceive it from a daily or weekly mindset. We struggle. We practice. We fail. We get back up and try again. Those who are patient and learn to thrive in the cycle can achieve the seemingly impossible, while those who “want it now or not at all” leave this world without accomplishing even the most simple of aspirations.
I have been teaching English for the past sixteen years, and during that time my own practice has developed from being a showman extraordinaire, dazzling the imaginations of young minds, to becoming a guide who carefully nurtures each individual’s attempt to build a toolkit of learning skills. Education has metamorphosed into a new endeavour, and nowhere have I observed this style of learning to be more present than in the jiu-jitsu classes that I attend in Toronto and watch online through various academies [Drysdale, Garcia , and Gracie].
How does Brazilian jiu-jitsu approach learning differently? Like most forms of education, classes do contain a main instructor who demonstrates a specific move or task during a class. Classes often begin with a series of warm-ups and technique drills to develop fitness and muscle memory. Much of a class, however, is spent with partners working together to develop how best to apply the specific move based on their skill level and how it might fit into their personal game. Partners are the key difference here; a good partner can support you to tweak a kimura grip or guard pass by offering immediate feedback. A great jiu-jitsu partner also provides positive emotional support to help you get through the emotional trauma of not understanding until you can. During this time the main instructor often walks around to observe the students’ progress and to offer routes to consider. You, as the student, attempt to incorporate all of the feedback into your understanding without internalizing it as failure and discouraging chaos. The most difficult challenge of jiu-jitsu is to not surrender to the voices in your head whispering for you to give up, go home and never come back.
But it is difficult, right? Yes. Frankly, it was extremely hard to build enough internal momentum to overcome the gravity of going to a class where you start out stupid, and by stupid I mean inept. My body simply was not conditioned to move in the ways that it needed to. I was in shape, but out of shape. I was strong, but weak. I could not figure out how to follow basic directions. Shrimping near killed
With patience comes success. I have now completed seventeen classes since November, and being three months into my training has taught me how to cope with being choked, stretched, bent and folded by my partners without acknowledging the voices that shout out that I might be “too old, weak, stupid, slow, ugly or incompetent.” Instead, I now hear the germination of a new voice confidently responding with “but you are here, and here you will stay until you decide otherwise.”
If you have never tried Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and are on the look out for an activity that will become a lifestyle… If you always wanted to push yourself physically to do things you believed to be outside of your wheelhouse… If you feel a void in your life because online connections are your most common source of human contact… If you always wanted to learn self-defense or a martial art form that works… If any of these idea appeal to you somewhere deep inside your being, then I suggest finding a gym nearby that you may want to try. If you live in a big city like I do, then research the type of team you would be joining carefully, because pretty soon you will realize that they have become the tribe you fly your banner under. All tribes are good, but each has its own unique personality as so do you. I chose Team Zenith at Toronto No Gi. Who will you choose?
“Do not pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”~Bruce Lee