I turned 44 years old last week. This week I am going to hit a major Jiu-Jitsu milestone for me: class 100. Tomorrow, I am attending a seminar with the infamous Eddie Bravo. Tuesday might have my wife and I attending a seminar with Roderigo Munduruca at her gym. Then Bermuda…life can be a beautiful thing. It can. But it is always a struggle, there is never a magical time when the battle ends, and maybe that is exactly what makes it so beautiful. I wonder what my little daughter would think of that.
Where to begin? On March 2nd, I turned 44 years old. I sat with my wife to share a black coffee and warm banana chocolate bread that she had baked to celebrate the day. It was the first morning we have shared since our beautiful little daughter was born three months ago. Sleep is precious in our household these days, and I actually enjoy bringing my wife her coffee in the dark and placing it on the bedside table for when the baby’s cries start her morning for real. Still, this morning was an appreciated sharing of time and space. Age is a strange fact. We all grow older and edge towards our final morning in the ether of this incarnation. We never know when our time will come, so that while age is an indicator of an impending doom, it is not a true measure of how much remains.
In the past year I have become a father, traveled a bit (Italy, Maui, Colorado, Montreal, Quebec, Prince Edward Island), competed in three jiu-jitsu tournaments and am inching towards a blue belt. I have worked hard on improving not only my physical health, but also the peace with which I approach my daily life. I feel calm. I generally am a very happy, grateful, blessed man, who genuinely cares about the others I meet. I am not working to make hordes of gold, I am not aspiring to fame, I see my career as an example of what I do well versus a way to rise above others in some imaginary scale of success. I do still appreciate my possessions (I will never become a minimalist by choice). I understand the value of a good day’s work and want to continue to adapt my teaching skills for the next decade. I appreciate spending an evening at home with my family as much as an evening out on the town with friends or at the opera. I think I get it…whatever it is.
For my birthday I asked my wife to attend a class with her at her academy, Gracie Woodbridge. Maybe I am sentimental, but presents matter less to me now than spending quality time with the woman I love dearly. Not dead time, real time where we are alive and challenged by something other than life with our cute baby girl. I consider Gracie Woodbridge to be Monika’s gym, while mine is Toronto No Gi. I genuinely like the people who train there, and enjoyed my time at seminars there. Still, I know the value of loyalty and the team at Toronto No Gi is my crew for different reasons, and while I feel comfortable visiting her place it will never be mine. Perhaps wisdom allows me to see and respect that. Grass is grass, no mattter what side of the fence you stand upon.
Class 100? In my narrative this is a major milestone. 16 months ago, I doubted that I would last more than a month. I could barely move, breathe, or do anything other than embarrass myself. 16 months in and I cannot imagine stopping no matter the reason life will place in front of me. I feel alive and engaged on the mats even when I am sluggish, exhausted and wanting to just crawl beneath covers in a darkened room. There will be no mystical experience or unexpected promotion tonight, but that is not the point; that does not diminish the moment or the accomplishment. 100 classes where the ego is broken and the body is controlled should never be dismissed. Nor is the number great in the grand scheme, as I figure the next stage from blue to purple to be around 300 to 500 more classes. The journey is what is to be valued and not simply the milestones. Not all travellers complete the long road’s obstacles; but I will walk this path as long as I have a will that remains.
Looking back on my life can be a painful proposition. From the place I now stand, my previous ways and history can cause me to cringe. I wish that I had been wiser, calmer, more honest with myself. I see how I allowed others to make me miserable in my daily life. I wish I could erase my mistakes. But I cannot, and for every mistake I would erase I would lose a victory and place of understanding today. I am a part of all that I have known and met…
If I were to offer my thoughts, as Chief Dan George does, on what I have comprehended at 44 years in this world, then perhaps my list would look like this:
- Discipline allows for freedom.
- Family is our first path to community.
- Fatherhood is as magical as people insisted, but only now that I am ready for it.
- Sleep is a worthwhile activity to be appreciated.
- Supporting others is more enriching than looking out for yourself only.
- Always make time to talk to people, even those who might be enemies.
- Appreciate the moment; put the phone and tv remote away when you can talk with a live human.
- Enjoy the small luxuries you can afford or that are given to you by others.
- Health is the most important possession we can borrow.
- Jiu-jitsu is my way of life; it is not an option.
And that is what 100 classes of Jiu-Jitsu with truly wonderful people has taught me thus far. Peace.