I have been doing Jiu Jitsu half of my life, and for anyone who knows my real age they know that is a pretty long time. For this reason, it becomes more and more interesting to me to look at people beginning their training and their motivations. Likewise, it interests me to watch my peers’ motivations grow and evolve, as does mine. Jiu Jitsu has become a lifestyle for me, and I would like to pass on a few ways in which I mean this.

I first came to Jiu Jitsu after some previous martial arts training that was somewhat lackluster. I had various reasons for wanting to learn, but a major one is that I saw the “magic” of martial arts training, and Jiu Jitsu offered a new brand of magic that appealed to me at the time. I was not very strong or fast or otherwise athletic. I was introverted, but I was artistic and imaginative. I enjoyed the outlet for a new expression of creativity that Jiu Jitsu gave me. However, there wasn’t anything I could clearly articulate was my direct motivation. And I think this is common. I often hear people, upon being questioned about their reason for starting their training, say things such as “I am just interested in it” or “I saw it on TV and thought it looked cool” or some variation of these responses. Others may express an interest in defending themselves or in the competition aspect, and most all students are drawn to these aspects to some degree.

As an instructor, it has become a responsibility of mine to figure out the true motivation of individuals, in order to help them in their journey. “Journey” sounds a little hokey, but that is what it is or what it has to become, if it is to amount to anything at all. Most initial responses to the question of motivation are superficial, because the individual has had no exposure yet to the benefits of training. As they proceed in their training, their motivation changes and vacillates. Eventually, if they stick with it, their motivation becomes muted, effaced, and aloof. “Motivation” as a term for why they continue training becomes outmoded, and they progress to a constant state of just “training for training sake.” Everyone knows that they are in some way trying to better themselves with their training, and the fact that they are drawn to do this is a wondrous thing. It only becomes more wondrous as they continue.

Back to me: I have had moments of doubt and uncertainty. I have questioned my motivation, as well as the amount I have sacrificed to continue my training. “What am I trying to accomplish here?” I said on more than one occasion. What a dangerous question that we are all guilty of asking! Luckily I stuck through plateaus and climbed out of valleys, as well as I fortunately survived the rush of being high on peaks. It is easy to want to give up when you are feeling poorly about your training; especially if a single or few bad events knock you off of a pedestal of superiority you may have accidentally wound up on. And I am now more thankful than anything that I have the ability to say to students, with genuine conviction and reinforcement, “This too shall pass, so be thankful for today’s training.”

You have to develop the ability to take pleasure out of the sheer state of presence that training allows you. If you come in with worries from outside or regrets over earlier occurrences, you diminish, if not completely destroy, the joy and value of the training you are about to partake in. This is one of the highest principles from training that you can apply to all your life: be present and taste every detail of the current situation, painful or splendid. No amount of worry over a late bill will pay it! If you are at your daughter’s play, watch the play! If you are cooking a meal, cook the meal! Chop wood, carry water! When you allow your mind to live in another instance not the present one, you have separated your mind and body, and no harmony can follow that. In Jiu Jitsu this is immediately obvious, because if you are not paying attention, then you get caught in a choke. And you deserved it!

These are the very important aspects I see about living a Jiu Jitsu lifestyle – these metaphorical ideas. Metaphorical in the sense that they present themselves in tangible form in training and then render marvelous abstractions in daily living. Once we are able to settle ourselves into our practice and quiet some of the noise that runs through our heads, we can hear subtler things we are not as attuned to in daily bustle. We begin to “hear” our bodies instructions on how to to treat ourselves. How far can this muscle stretch comfortably? How fast does our heart beat before we have to breathe through our mouths and not just our noses? How much weight can I comfortably support in this or that position? How sluggish or energetic do I feel in my practice when I eat an hour before? Two hours? Most of these are fairly easy to answer if we can get ourselves present and quiet enough to be receptive.

I know my purpose now. I have learned it through my training. It is not about accomplishments, although I can outline these if I want. It is not about any willful direction I have forced myself into, and it is not about proselytizing, although I do plenty of that (that is what this blog is kind of about after all). My purpose is manifest, and I try only to nourish it with love and give it space to flourish. Jiu Jitsu tells me this is the right thing to do. So I consider Jiu Jitsu my purpose.

In closing I would like to include a nice segment of a video related to this topic:

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