There is a strange part of human behavior that most “normal folks” do not know about. Those of us who struggle together bond together. Not only do we bond, we bond on a deeply primal level. It is something with in us that we desire. When you look at our society, you see little of this extraordinary bond. I have been in the bowels of corporate America, and not once did I feel a close bond with my coworkers. Sure, they are great people, and we get along just fine. But as I passed from one corporate job to the next, I felt little connection with those I left behind.
If you have done even the smallest amount of martial arts training, be it Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or any grappling art that pushes you to your limits, you will have felt the primal bond that I am writing about. Grappling itself satisfies something primal within us, and as we struggle with our opponent’s we bond with them on a level so we that we call each other brother, family… TRIBE.
As a single male living alone, I spent a great deal of my mid to late 20’s feeling depressed and confused. It was not until I met a great friend and mentor who trained jiu jitsu that things started to change for me. I listened to this friend describe jiu jitsu. He spoke of it in a way that was like no other sports discussion or fitness routine. To him it was profound, life changing experience that he structured his entire being around. His elegant descriptions of grappling caught my attention as a curious individual. I knew nothing about jiu jitsu. I knew nothing about martial arts. I was hardly athletic. The hardest I ever pushed my body as an adult was an afternoon jog. My physical well being was something I gave little attention to, and as a consequence my mental well being suffered. I was lucky to have such a person come into my life and introduce me to the world of jiu jitsu, because I had no direction to go, and no concept of what it really meant to be part of a tribe.
You might be thinking to yourself, “This sounds awfully like joining a cult.” It is hard to talk about jiu jitsu in this context with out those cultish undertones. In some ways jiu jitsu is very cultish. You will begin to resonate with people who only understand what it means to struggle in a live roll. You will look at others who do not train a bit differently, and you will inherit the principals of what it means to be a martial artists into your daily life. What makes jiu jitsu distinct from a cult is that you can leave at any time at your own will.
Something I did after training for two years, and deeply regretted. I stopped training jiu jitsu, started neglecting my body, and suffered mentally and emotionally as a result. It was like finding the one thing that gave my life fulfillment and then abandoning it with lame excuses. I felt like a fool to leave behind such an important part of my being. I missed being surrounded by people who encouraged me to be my very best, and push myself beyond what I thought I was capable of. I missed being physically and mentally tested and, in letting this part of my life go, I grew weak and depressed.
There where circumstances in my life that pulled me back into the jiu jitsu community that I abandoned. I am very thankful for that, as I was on a path of self destruction and despair. It took me awhile to correct course, and I would not have been able to do this without the love and support of my training partners, who I share a deep familial bond with. I exist as a living example of a soul who was lost and found a path through life (and adulthood) by way of jiu jitsu and the community of people I train with. To be a member of a train of people who are all out to learn and grow inspires me daily to try and be at my best. And when I fall off, I have people in my life who hold me accountable and help me correct course. Let’s face it. This just isn’t something you find in your daily 9 to 5 job – the people we spend most of our waking hours with.
We are social animals that thrive in feeling connected to our tribe. I will be the first to tell you that as an introverted being I value spending time alone. But even with these tendencies I have a great appreciation for the men and women I struggle on the mats with, and as a result of this struggle, I have grown into a person I am truly proud to be.
Martial arts will change your life for the better. Your journey through jiu jitsu will not be solo. You will meet some of the most diverse and interesting people on the mats. We all come from different backgrounds and have stories and experiences to share. But when it comes time to bow in, we become equals as students in our progress towards mastering the most difficult quest we have ever taken on.
I encourage you to dive into the world of martial arts and live a life of passion.