Jiu-Jitsu Isn’t Everything. (Or Confessions of a Jiu-Jitsu Addict)

Posted: September 4, 2013 in All Eli's BJJ Posts, Most Recent Posts
Tags: , ,

Depending on who is reading this, that title will either be an obvious statement or blasphemy. The first time I heard the statement it was the latter for me. 

Our culture and society praises positive addiction as much as it demonizes negative addiction, and sometimes the lines blur between the two. I have had moments of pride, addiction and chauvinism in my journey of jiu-jitsu that have taught me the value of compartmentalizing this passion. In other words, the fire can fuel you or burn you. I have experienced beauty and revelation through studying this magnificent art. I have proclaimed miraculous things about jiu-jitsu, and I believe many of them still. But, as with any other form of excess, problems arise when one mistakes something that changed their life for the entirety of life itself. 

Maybe this doesn’t make sense to many people out there. With any luck, maybe I can catch a neophyte addict on his or her way to stepping across that blurred line. Maybe you are reading this because you are offended by my proclamation that there are more important things in life than that thing you hold so dearly. If you aren’t sure if your jiu-jitsu (or other martial art or even other hobby for that matter) is a potential problem at all, then maybe a checklist is in order.

Do you have any of  the following conditions?

1. Do you feel deeply disturbed by the idea that when you are not training someone else is, and they are going to surpass you?

2. Have you put money toward your training, gear, seminars, lessons, etc. that, even by your own admission,  would’ve been more wisely put toward bills or other grown-up responsibilities?

3. Have you sacrificed time with your family, friends and loved ones in order to train?

4. Have you belittled other martial arts or practitioners for their choice of something other than your chosen art?

5. Have you been at a loss in conversations with others, because nothing seems important to talk about besides jiu-jitsu.

Do you get that this isn’t just about jiu-jitsu anymore?

This is my recognition of my particular brand of addictive personality. I know there are brilliant minds and amazing people out there who have been able to use the avocation for the betterment of their lives. I see it all the time. Likewise, to quote Ginsberg, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…” by doing what they thought was good and just. 

I am not saying that I ever hurt anyone directly by learning more deeply about jiu-jitsu. Rather, it was the depth to which I took it that caused any damage. The art was always perfect; it was I, the artist, who wasn’t.

Now, even though this is a confessional piece, I can’t exactly bring myself to specify the negative impact that my jiu-jitsu addiction has had on people and things in my life. And please understand, reader, that I don’t blame jiu-jitsu for my choices. Needless to say, I have at some points or others in my career checked off all five of the aforementioned statements. I am not proud of that. 

Jiu-Jitsu was very nearly my everything, and is still a good portion of my heart. However, my realigned focus these days allows me to see when I am getting obsessive and compulsive. The phrase “Leave It All On The Mat” means something entirely different to me these days. I lost parts of myself in my pursuit and had to rebuild. I still dive deeply into the technique, principle and philosophy every day on the mat. I am still thankful that I am allowed to do what I do for a living and a lifestyle. But, after I have shared that space and that knowledge; once I have moved and felt and delved; after I leave the mat, I look around and use my beautiful experience to try to see the world and be in it. 

I need jiu-jitsu. I also need air and food and love and art. Each has its perfect place and use. I’m just learning to see that the lines aren’t that blurry anymore. 

  1. Amy Knight says:

    Bravo, and a standing ovation! You’re explanation is both brilliant and beautiful. It’s moments like these that make me so proud you’re my brother. I love you!

  2. leslie says:

    Yes! I have come to the same conclusion in the last two years, as well. JIu-jitsu is still on my schedule and in my life, but it isn’t the first priority. And I’m also working on giving my full attention & energy to jiu-jitsu while I’m in class, and then letting go of it once I leave class.

    As for #1, my concern was always that if I missed a training session that I would miss The Secret of Jiu-jitsu or the Magic Rep that made the technique clear.

  3. Paul says:

    I’m not sure I believe in it anymore. I am a Blue Belt and have been struggling a lot lately. My problem is, I don’t do Jiu Jitsu for competition. I do it as a form of self defense and for fitness. Recently, I have noticed that a lot of the guys I train with think that due to the belt around their waist they’re going to beat just about anyone in a street fight. I’m not sure I feel the same. I think BJJ is a wonderful tool to have in your kit bag, but I don’t agree that you instantly turn into a killer. A friend of mine who has always run a mile whenever any conflict has arisen is near his purple belt and thinks he’s now unbeatable, where as I think if he was confronted by a highly aggressive dickhead he would completely shit himself. It’s my opinion, that you either have it in you or you don’t. You can train to 5 black belts, but if you lack the balls to take a situation to the physical when the need arises, than IMO, your training has been for naught and you will end up a victim no matter how many hours you’ve put in on the mat.

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