Absolutely No Bullshit

Jackson Tandy Seoul Tournament

Imagine if your boss really was the hardest grinder in the company. Imagine if teachers got paid based on the quality of their teaching alone, (not by seniority or outdated credentials). Imagine if your president really was the most intelligent, pure-natured, socially aware, forward thinking person in the nation?

When I practice Jiu Jitsu, I experience something very rare and very profound. I experience a culture where nothing is given and everything is earned. For two hours a day, I live in a world of zero bullshit.

Here’s what happens when you start Jiu Jitsu:

1) Your instructor gives you a white belt

2) You wear that belt at ALL times

3) Your belt advertises your true skill level to everyone else in the room.

The belt system advances like this: White->Blue->Purple->Brown->Black. On average it takes 2 years to advance a belt. And here’s the beautiful part: you absolutely cannot buy a promotion or fast-track your way to the top. In some other martial arts you find things like group promotions and annual promotions. Not in Jiu Jitsu. You could potentially practice 20 years and never make black belt. You ONLY get promoted when your instructor sees that you have mastered the necessary skills for your level. There’s only one way to advance, Hard Fucking Work.

My Jiu Jitsu coach is a short man, but he really IS the alpha lion of the group. Simply because trains harder and longer than any of us. The first time I fought him, I remember thinking that I just might give him a run for his money…

You wear your belt. Everyone knows your true worth at a glance. We’re like video game characters with our personal attributes scrolling overhead. For me that blatant level of honesty was… refreshing.

And I can’t help but think that a dose of that honesty would be good for everyone. Especially in the work place. Especially for teachers and trainers everywhere. Especially for young males who are innately susceptible to the ‘invincibility’ delusion. Especially for everyone in the world who desperately needs a sense of worth, a sense of unadulterated pride, something real that they earned through sweat and honest self assessment.

I’ll never be proud of my height or my race or my nationality, all things gifted to me by way of the universal lottery. But the day that I earn my Blue Belt, ooh baby I’ll run that thing up a flag pole. A really tall flag pole.

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The Martial Arts

 

I love practicing the martial arts for three reasons.

  1. The workouts kick my ASS.
  2. What I’m learning is practical. I travel a lot, and I like the idea that I could protect myself and my family if needed. Basketball is crazy fun for me, but it isn’t useful in the same way.
  3. My instructors and partners are good people. From what I’ve experienced, people who practice these lethal art forms are honest and hard working. The culture is one of deep respect.

Last year I practiced Jiu Jitsu and right now I’m practicing Muay Thai. Here’s a short word on each art form:

Jiu Jitsu is the art of grappling on the ground. If you go to youtube and type in “street fight”, you’ll see that eventually every fight ends up on the ground. Jiu Jitsu teaches you what to do once you’re down there. If you are on top, how do maintain your control? If you are on your back, how do you A) get back to your feet, or B) attack from your back?

Muay Thai is a specialized form of striking. In Muay Thai you learn that your body has 8 weapons: two fists, two elbows, two knees, and two legs. You learn how to dance in front of your opponent, how to protect yourself from strikes, and how to throw your own combinations. Throwing an effective punch is harder than it looks on TV. On my first day of Muay Thai training, I spent a long time learning how to stand.

From Taekwondo to Judo, Karate, Boxing, Kick Boxing, Wrestling, there are a lot of fighting disciplines. But it’s clear that some disciplines are more useful than others. UFC fights in the 90’s and early 2000’s proved that a well trained Jiu Jitsu fighter has a very good chance of out-matching a striker, even a bigger and stronger one.

UFC fights are fascinating from an intellectual perspective because they attempt to answer this question: If two people face off, and all other things are basically equal (the fighters are the same size, there are no weapons, both fighters are healthy, etc…) who will win? Which fighting technique, or combination of techniques, is actually the most effective? UFC fighters are today’s Roman Gladiators. They really do “fight to the death,” but the referee’s job is to intercede exactly at the point that death is imminent.

I never thought I’d be a die hard UFC fan, but since when did Mrs. Fanny Fate ever give a shit about what we thought we’d grow up to be?