Posts Tagged ‘Eli Knight’

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The largest, one of the most destructive storms to hit land ever. That’s what they’re calling Typhoon Haiyan that decimated the Philippines. The images and video are horrific. But it’s so far away, so far from home here in the US. Why help? How?

It’s overwhelming when you see the scope of the destruction. After the Tsunami in Japan and before that Hurricane Katrina, I began to realize that I could do more to help instead of sending whatever I could manage to afford by itself. I began to consider how I could use my immediate sphere of influence to increase the amount of help to the cause.

I believe, regardless of what it is, you can use your vocation, avocation, hobby, passion or influence to bring attention to causes when they arise. As a martial artist my charge was to find out how to use Jiu-Jitsu, and how to relate it, to the cause at hand. So far I have done charity martial arts workshops for breast cancer awareness and research, autism awareness and research, food and clothing donations, anti-bullying campaigns, and domestic violence awareness and resource funding. Sometimes I managed to raise thousands of dollars or hundreds of items while other times I’d only have a few people show and barely raise more than I could have donated alone. But the point was that I got others to pay attention and increased help to the cause.

So if you are a martial artist (and I suspect you are to some capacity if you read my blog), I want to share a couple of ideas about how to help. Maybe you’ve already done something like these or have already considered it. But if you haven’t thought of these or haven’t acted yet, now is the time.

Find an organization with better resources than you have.
The Red Cross is one of my favorites but there are countless others that specialize in disaster relief efforts. But do your homework because you will find unfortunately that there are many organizations that claim to put much more toward help than they actually do and some turn a bit too healthy of a profit while providing too marginal a portion of the money they collect to the effort.

Hold your own event.
Host a seminar, donate a portion or all of proceeds from classes for a month, talk up the cause during classes and lessons. It is not unscrupulous to do something you were already going to,like teaching or running your business, and raise money or help for a cause at the same time. Now, if you use an event to drum up business for yourself while offering no recompense toward the event, that is unscrupulous and you are a D-bag. So don’t do that. Be good. Don’t suck.

Get out your own wallet.
Don’t ask someone to do something you’re not willing to do yourself. The best way to influence people is to be a good example. There have been events I’ve put on where generous others with deeper pockets than my own have out-donated me, but I always pitch in what I can in addition to my time and organization and instruction.

If you are a serious martial artist you begin to realize that it’s more about helping people than hurting people. You recognize the interconnectedness of all of humanity and that what benefits some of us generally benefits us all. I teach because I care. I want to share with others this wonderful art that has changed my life in hopes that someone will be affected as I have been. And no one needs more help than those hit with such unforeseen, horrific tragedy like the Typhoon in the Philippines. These people, old and young, infants and elderly, pregnant women, handicapped and mentally challenged, those who are lost and have lost, all need help. Please do what you can.

Triumph

There’s always that question, particularly in Jiu-Jitsu, of whether the belt someone is awarded is legitimate. This question isn’t asked the same way in other arts because the criteria are different and in Jiu-Jitsu there is more of a hang up on who can tap who. Is it all about that? If you get that purple belt, should you be able to tap any blue belt? If you are a brown belt and can tap a black belt, do you automatically deserve your black? Does it depend on size or strength combined with technique? Is there a simpler answer?

Technique conquers all. I believe that. But the technique doesn’t guarantee victory. All things being equal, equal technique and experience, the bigger or stronger or faster opponent will typically come out on top. You shouldn’t be expected to best a 250 pound athlete of a purple belt if you are a 150 pound purple belt. So the performance basis of any martial art, Jiu-Jitsu included has a cap on it.

Furthermore, shouldn’t the “art” aspect be considered? The philosophy. The principles behind the technique and the knowledge you gain are benefits of the study and practice that potentially carry on further than even the techniques themselves. Just as in yoga, self-study or self-reflection is a premise of the journey, Jiu-Jitsu likewise should be approached with concern toward the character development of the practitioner. This hits closer to the heart of the questions posed in the beginning.

Here is what I have surmised as one of the most important considerations in progression in Jiu-Jitsu: it’s not a matter of are you better than anyone else, it is whether you are better than the you the you were. Can you tap the yesterday you? The last week or last month you? Do you have a more refined lens or approach to training than the previous you?

Can Buchecha tap Relson Gracie? I’m gonna say most likely. Maybe not, but I’d put my money on Buchecha. So why not give Buchecha the red belt? Let’s pose a different question. Who can teach the most people a deeper understanding and appreciation of Jiu-jitsu? Who can show someone the most versatile of movements for a multitude of situations to the most diverse individuals with varied levels of physical ability? Now my money goes on Relson.

So again, Jiu-Jitsu wins, because it’s not about just a few criteria. A true professor in my estimation, watches students closely and insightfully, considering many aspects of their ability and character. I understand that there are schools and teachers who only award rank based on performance in fights or tournaments. “You got a gold medal? Here’s your next stripe.” “You got a rear naked in your mma fight? Here’s your brown belt.” Sad to see.

I’d rather put a stripe on the belt of the kid who looked the bully in the eye for the first time in his academic life than on the belt of the kid who was already an athlete in five other sports and is now tearing up all the grappling tournaments. That guy who could barely tie his shoes because he was so overweight and now can roll for half an hour – that’s the guy I admire. Again, I admit, I love watching uber talented athletes do miraculous things on the mat or in the ring, but they are not half of the hero as the woman who stopped the sexual assault that was about to happen to her.

So while you have to be able to perform the techniques with understanding and appropriate proficiency, and you should be able to defend yourself easily with these techniques against your physical equal of an opponent, these are but partial criteria in considering ranking qualifications in Jiu-Jitsu. Personal growth and development, and as Grandmaster Helio said, the triumph of human intelligence over brute strength, these all should be considerations in determining rank.

This isn’t always the case. And these are my opinions. And these are my convictions.

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Many refer to Jiu-Jitsu training as therapeutic. The therapy comes from enjoying the moment by being completely involved on the mat. We live in a culture that conditions us to multitasking, pulling our minds in a million directions at once. It is wonderful then to have a place and time that forces you to be completely present in the moment as Jiu-Jitsu does.

Once you get into the roll, you exist outside of your hectic life, focused and immersed into the task at hand. You realize, in that special moment, that nothing exists before or after, and therefore worries and regrets do you no good whatsoever. This is Zen. This is living Jiu-Jitsu.

And as much as it is wonderful to share epiphanies and explain metaphors for life from Jiu-Jitsu, there is no substitute for sweat. The purest benefit comes from the rolling. Drilling, repetition, detail work, instruction are all necessary to training and improving, but the true philosophy of Jiu-Jitsu comes from the mat time, the rolling. That’s where the therapy and wisdom come from.

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For those of you who recognize the quote that gives this post its title, good job. If you really get the significance of the quote, better job.

For those of us who train, and truly get to the essence of martial arts, we understand the idea of fighting to be a vehicle for self exploration and understanding. There is undoubtedly something revealed to you about yourself in a physical confrontation that cannot be revealed anywhere else. I don’t mean to say that there aren’t other significant modes of self exploration, but a violent situation brings out things in you that you didn’t know were there before.

Most can’t understand true calm without ultimate chaos, just as you can’t understand light fully without total darkness. And until that deeply pervasive and complete calm washes over you, there remain some deep recesses within you that you only can estimate about what impact they may have.

If and when the day comes that you experience a fight, when those unexplored aspects of your primitive self surface, your perspective cannot help but to shift. I think that this is something we come closer to experiencing when training Jiu-Jitsu than much of anything else you can do recreationally. People are always chasing a rush, creating a biochemical drug-like reaction in their bodies and brains through extreme sports or other thrillseeking endeavors. It’s as if those dark recesses of the ancient human condition are longing to come out. Perhaps this is what drives violent behavior in others. So many confusing elements of our nature as humans make sense when viewed in this light.

As with any dark condition; addiction, violent tendencies, compulsive behavior, etc., the need for an outlet, a manner of exercising the demons if you will, becomes of paramount importance. It’s not something we will probably be putting into an advertisement inside parenting magazines or talking about in our kids classes, but there is something within us all that is a complete mystery unless and until the catalyst of violence unearths it. But once exhumed, there is a Jungian transformation like the contact of two chemical substances, a transformation takes place, and we are never the same again. Some try to run from what they see. Some are maddened by it and overtaken, looking to reproduce the effect through redistributed violence.

Jiu-jitsu shows the practitioner the truth: that the discovery made during violence has less to do with violence itself and more to do with humanity and uncertainty. Jiu-Jitsu gives you a wonderful tool for managing of insecurity, uncertainty, anger, and all other faces of fear. It is a venue that allows you to explore and accept, discovering your potential by vanquishing those unexposed areas where doubt reside.

You may know yourself pretty well without ever having known a violent situation at all. But the day you encounter a fight, that all changes and you realize how little you actually knew all along.

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Remember when MMA was called NHB? Vale Tudo? Fighting?

MMA is its own sport now complete with rules, restrictions, minutiae that makes sure the matches are more even and close and entertaining. Gone are the days of style versus style. And that is how it all started. Now, I don’t mean to say that I don’t enjoy watching and following MMA. I think it serves a valuable purpose and has done much to advance the study of martial arts in general. It’s just different now.

I’m a firm believer that in a one on one fight, Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a superior method. I feel that it is also one of or the most valuable arts in self-defense, weapons attacks, multiple attacker situations, and more. But there is less of an arena to test out and prove the efficacy of Jiu-Jitsu against other arts in those situations. But with person versus person, one on one, we now have a venue and it is called mixed martial arts.

What MMA has done most proficiently in its history is twofold. Firstly, it has shown that you absolutely must know the ground aspect of fighting. If you don’t and your opponent does, you will lose 95% of the time. Secondly, in my estimation of things, it has shown the value of knowing multiple arts for various ranges of combat. I only say that this is second because many martial arts have evolved in their particular areas based on the forefathers’ predilection and proficiency at those areas.

Likewise, much of martial arts history has been spread through charisma just as much as performance. The ability of an impressive instructor to convince the masses that he can transfer his abilities (historically based on athleticism) to anyone. Inflating of egos, misdirection of importance of techniques, and watered down instruction became tools of the trade in the martial arts industry. This allowed many arts to thrive because they were easily taught and the practitioners felt impressed.

Then 1993 (much earlier outside the US) changed so much. A skinny Brazilian choked and locked his way to becoming the face of what martial arts was sorely missing. The alarm sounded that the necessity of knowing how to grapple, particularly on the ground, was crucial to surviving a fight efficiently. You could always be big and strong and fast and beat people up, but the maxim of technique over strength finally and truthfully resounded in the form of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

Then we stood on the precipice of a new generation forming. We, the experienced martial artists, thought of as experts in our fields, had to look in the mirror and to choose a path. At that moment, you could either move dramatically forward and pretend that you were the exception and you could create other exceptions to the Jiu-Jitsu zeitgeist. Or you could swallow some pride and incorporate this amazing art into your repertoire.

I was one that swallowed my pride, already a black belt in traditional jujitsu, I chose to don a white belt and study the Gracie way. 16 years later I would receive my black belt under Royce Gracie. In that time I’ve found my true niche and developed an understanding of martial arts and fighting. Moreover I’ve found out about myself and life in general, with Jiu-Jitsu being the vehicle of my education.

Of the various routes I take to proselytize about Jiu-Jitsu, speaking of the importance of it in MMA is included. People are losing sight of how necessary understanding about Jiu-Jitsu is in MMA because they see people trying for the knockout and to make the fights more flamboyant in order to get themselves noticed and make big bonuses. Fans or prospective fighters interested in learning more are losing the awareness that, even though there are more standup battles, Jiu-Jitsu is just as important, or even more so, than ever.

So rules, no rules; sport or street; fighting is fighting and Jiu-Jitsu is about the techniques underlying the fight. It is as scientific an approach to something as chaotic as fighting gets and should be appreciated by anyone interested in understanding about fighting, combat, self-defense and physical competition.

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Sometimes I want to shout at people, “Do you know how lucky you are?!” This is for several reasons, but as it applies here, about having a place and ability to train.

Not to sound like the curmudgeon old man saying “back in my day…” but really, that’s how I feel sometimes. Having traveled all over the country to train with anyone and everyone I could when first starting BJJ, I cannot imagine what it would have been like to have a huge academy with multiple black belts where Royce Gracie comes to visit! Yet, that is what our students have now at the academy where I and other Jiu-Jitsu brethren teach. Crazy.

But, other days I get it. If you don’t know anything about martial arts, and you hear that there is a black belt on every corner (in Karate or TKD or whathaveyou), you may not see the value. Or you may hear the price tag and think, “but I can join the health club down the road for like $40 a month! Why pay $100 or more for BJJ?” If you teach or even train at an academy that is worth anything at all, you feel my frustration with people for not understanding or appreciating what they have near them. So I will offer some ideas I have heard and come up with on my own over the years to combat ignorance.

First, let me address the price tag. For those who argue that lessons cost too much…compared to what? Seriously? If you haven’t trained, don’t know the benefits, you have no basis of comparison and therefore no grounds on which to argue. Second, look at what you currently spend your money on. If you skip a few fast food trips, cut out the overpriced coffee, get rid of an indulgent unhealthy habit or two, then you will easily come up with the $4 a day it takes to pay for BJJ training. I said $4 a day! Additionally, by cutting out those costly bad habits you doubly improve your health consciousness when you consider that you’ve replaced an unhealthy habit for a healthy lifestyle choice.

Next, the difference between training Jiu-Jitsu and training at McDojo’s Martial Arts Emporium down the road with their 50 black belts. Black belts are not easily acquired in BJJ. You can go into most Karate and Tae Kwon Do schools and sign a contract virtually guaranteeing you a black belt at the end of a length of time. Show up, memorize some forms and terminology, never having to test out your skills in any realistic capacity, you can still get a black belt…when you’re about 12 years old or younger.

I have never taken a test for a single belt or even stripe under Royce Gracie. If he felt like I had improved since last he saw me, he would tell me to put a stripe on my belt. Sometimes this would be a while. I never know when the rank is coming, so I am concerned only with training and improving for the sake of the art and my own benefit. I don’t disagree with those instructors who conduct tests for their students. I even see some value in it. Regardless or testing or not, you are guaranteed that you will have to improve, stay fit and able, and be sure you can make the techniques actually work. This makes Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (particularly Gracie Jiu-Jitsu) one of the most realistic martial arts out there. I would say the most realistic, but I will concede that there are others possibly. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

What’s more, you may find those saying they are not very concerned with self-defense, that they stay fit and healthy on their own, and that they have other hobbies. That is all well and good. But, my friend, have you even tried Jiu-Jitsu? For so many, it is a lifestyle that makes you want to move and learn and eat well and live better in every conceivable way! Why not try something that has those potential effects? And you may need to remind these people of the idea that, while there may be no good reason in the world to fight, there is every reason in the world to know how to fight! Oh, you have a gun for self-defense you say? You got it on you right now? At every second of every day? Because that is how often I have my Jiu-Jitsu with me.

BJJ may not be for everyone (I believe everyone can benefit from it however), so I don’t go out proselytizing all over the place. But I do speak my mind and share my knowledge and passion where those seeking more information may find me. I hope the aforementioned ideas might help you convince someone to give training a chance too.

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Firstly, this isn’t a religious post, except in the fact that jiu-jitsu is a deeply religious thing for me. Rather, I’m referring to having faith in the training, in the technique, in the realization that all will come when you are ready for it.

The first truly Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu technique I ever learned was a half guard pass. I had virtually no context for it. It had never come up in a fight and I hadn’t realized what it was if it occurred in training prior to learning it. I repped it out and listened to the explanation for it but it wouldn’t be accessible to me for some time.

Finally, probably 2 or more years later I found the exact right scenario and that technique, which I thought I had forgotten by then, came to the surface. I was ready for it! Has this ever happened to you?

This is one of those beautiful jiu-jitsu epiphony, metaphorical moments of clarity, when it all makes sense again. When the roll speaks to you, you understand it to be the truth because it proves its inherent value in the moment perfectly. There are of course other moments in life when the pieces fall into place, but jiu-jitsu is so often times complex and chaotic yet formulaic and precise, that it seems to hold an equation up to the universe and say “See! This is how it works!”

Sorry for the philosophical rant, but that’s the nature of the thing. If you dismiss a move as not useful, either in itself or just for you, you miss out on the possibility that maybe you were simply not ready for it. It happens the other route as well. For example, the white belt who has “mastered” the upa escape and now only relies on the elbow escape because the upa is “too basic.” Or then there is the intermediate student who “needs another sweep” because everyone has caught on to his standard sweeps. It is simply a matter of readiness and appropriateness. So then the statement above could equally say, “If it isn’t happening for you, the situation isn’t appropriate for it.” Same meaning.

The answer, to me, is a matter of having faith that if the technique is trained enough, it will work for you when you are ready. Or that you will reach a moment when the situation is apporpriate and you were able to apply it to the situation. The only missing ingredients then, are a lens for determining if the technique is sound in itself (which comes with time), and the patience to stick it out and develop proficiency and ability with the technique (which takes faith.

Now go train!