Not all of us go to the place; some people, those who live sheltered lives, never have the chance to see how deep the dark caverns of the heart and mind go. Life for the livestock of humanity is full of shiny objects, caramel macchiato frappe, and daily successes supported through their daddy’s wealth. I desire nothing from that world.
Instead, I strive for my life to be full of meaningful experiences and personal growth. I seek out the dark places because I have learned through past failures that these are where I will find the treasures that only a hero can wield. Destruction and then rebuilding: solve et coagula.
As I marked exams, after sleeping in ten minute increments as I teach my infant daughter to sleep (irony abounds), I also listened to the inaugural podcast of Roy Dean and Nic Gregoriades. One question that Nic asked Roy was “How do you deal with those moments when you want to give up to the pressure [in a roll]?” Roy Dean’s response was worth visiting the podcast for, but, in a paraphrase, he spoke about a mantra, the next step, and using what was available, but not giving up. I am there, in that place quite often, and it is THAT place where I aim to collide with as often as my spirit allows.
Certainly, I was in that space during my last jiu-Jitsu roll. My arms were spent, my ribs are bruised, and my opponent is twenty odd years younger than me. He has me in mount and is digging for a Kimura. I am done. But it is is that space where I learn to assert my sheer will, to dig deeper into my psyche than he can into my arm. With a perfectly timed upa bridge off he flew a foot or two away and I return to the light. The point is not that I am skilled, but rather that I can resist when others would falter or see no point in doing so, and I believe that is the mindset of a holocaust survivor or a person pushing back cancer or how one moves forward through old age and the solitude it brings. Snowflakes need not apply.
On the motorcycle ride to and from work I have also been enthralled with Dan Carlin’s podcast Hardcore History. His narrative skills suck a listener deep into the learning zone and offer such understanding and entertainment. Anyway, while listening to his piece entitled “King of Kings”, he spoke about the Spartan motto: Molon labe, which roughly translate into “come and take them” [our weapons]. That resistance to pressure is what I aspire to in every moment of my life, and as I raise my little daughter, it is that force of will I hope to instill in her. Despite the illusion of safety in civilization, this world can be hard to navigate, and often laughter and perseverance are all that we can manage to keep us afloat. I try to give her both in equal measure.
Tonight, I am battered and worn bare. Sleep is a forgotten friend and I feel loved me the next two weeks are a channel full of deadly rocks and monsters. Jiu-jitsu has been tough. Work has been tough. A demanding little daughter of six months will always be tough. I know my strength and it is close to expired, but I also know that I have enough wind to reach port if I only persist.
On the jiu-Jitsu front, I have an amazing few months ahead. I have private lessons booked with Robin Gracie in Barcelona and Kurt Osiander in San Francisco. I have time at Gracie PEI, Caio Terra Academy, Ralph Gracie Academy and a few other places arranged. I also have a Henry Akins seminar in August, a Rener Gracie Super Seminar in September and NOMAD Toronto after that. In fact, I ordered a new white belt from Kataaro to get me through the foreseeable months ahead as I travel to new places. My original belt is a little worse for wear, has some signatures I would prefer to not lose to the mats, and I felt like the milestone of earning my fourth stripe made it worthwhile to order a belt with all four stripes sewn on. All heroes accumulate trophies along their cycle, so I felt little less this would be a worthy update as I hold steady at white belt over the summer’s challenges and meetings.
On the mats, I am working on getting to and from Turtle Guard, holding a knee shield guard, getting to de la Riva, and a few sweeps like a Plan B, a Scissor Sweep and a few other things. I feel old. I feel like all of this work is futile as there will always be that younger, lighter, faster, stronger, better player who can crush my 18 months of hard work in a second. I feel like I am silly to put so much into an art form that I will never be a master in…but I persist, I defy and I try my best to laugh at the adversity. The other option is to surrender, to go numb and never know if I could have made it to blue or purple or even brown belt before the end. Like Tennyson’s Ulysses, perhaps “I will sail until I die.”