They say Brazilian jiu jitsu is like a bug. Perhaps it’s the endless array of options at any one moment that transforms the practice into one's passion so quickly and easily.
You start to train for hours, your thoughts are filled with techniques, and you stay up at night wondering how you can do better. All you want to do is jiu jitsu. The bug is real.
After starting in 2006, I was overcome with this obsession fairly quickly. Only 6 months into the game, I decided to pack my bags and head to Brazil indefinitely. I had a job to do, and that was learn jiu jitsu.
I worked 3 jobs to save enough cash to support my plans for as long as possible. I told my parents I'd be gone for 6 weeks so that there were no guilt trips or second thoughts. But I knew it'd be a much longer adventure. I even rejected two ‘once in lifetime’ opportunities to trainee with major accounting firms. But I didn’t care about accounting. I wanted to do jiu jitsu, and nothing was to get in my way.
Along the way I struggled, and learned, and unlearned. I trained lots, and competed hard. I experienced victory, and defeat. I've been seriously injured, I've felt demoralised, and useless, and happy, and sad, and sore, all at the same time.
Little by Little
Over 11 years on, and my brain is still firmly fixated on that one goal. Only now the dream is in reality. My focus is Higher Jiu Jitsu, and to say it’s full time may be an understatement. Most thoughts and decisions throughout the day are geared toward this mission.
I wake up and I get to writing what I planned the night before. After my hour of writing, I tend to the most pressing tasks on my agenda. I plan for the day’s classes. I check the curriculum schedule, and predetermine the warm ups and sequences. I answer queries. I sort out memberships, and I aim to serve the members of our academy in the best way I can.
There’s lots within the daily chores that I’d rather not do. Training and learning is way more fun than reconciling member payments. Teaching mechanics is so much better than working with merchandise suppliers. In every job there are things you like doing and things you don’t like. So you take the good with the bad, and you soldier on.
Many talk about being lucky to live a passion every day. Yet luck is a funny word. Maybe it's because it ignores the hard work and perseverance that’s required every step of the journey in order to get that far into it.
It’s challenging to choke people when your joints feel like they’re going to fall off in pain. It’s difficult to go on when you’re unsure of how to pay your bills at the end of the month. It’s hard to keep showing up to class prepared and ready to teach, and have nobody come in to learn from you.
Now I look at our mats on an average class filled with awesome students and I can only look back and ponder those early days. While my friends and family were off on their well paying jobs, I was budgeting my pennies, and wondering if any new members would walk through the door. It was impossible not to question the reasons I was doing this. But with every question I asked I found the motivation I needed to continue.
Start With Why
It's because I knew why. I understood the importance of jiu jitsu in my life, and Higher Jiu Jitsu to our members’ lives.
I knew that our city of Sydney needed a place to train Gracie Jiu Jitsu while being safe, and mindful. I knew it was important to have an academy that wasn’t wholly focused on breeding medal-chasing competitors, but wholesome, happy humans.
I was certain that the jiu jitsu scene needed a school to teach the smaller, weaker people of our community how to defend themselves against aggression, not just in the dojo but on the streets, and in homes too.
And I knew that jiu jitsu was the medium we could use to help everyday people move better, be healthier, and build quality of life. I could see the impact we were having, however small, and imagined those same results on a bigger scale.
And now, a few years on, this is exactly what's happening. I see a team of awesome souls come together in the morning, noon and night to ponder mechanics, practice self defence, and learn in a way that enhances their lives. It’s a joy to watch and it’s worth every bit of struggle.
Look Back, Look Forward
Sometimes I wonder what life would have been like if I hadn’t shunned those big corporations and instead did what everyone else was doing. Then I slap myself in the face, put my gi in my bag, and head off to Higher Jiu Jitsu for another session with my awesome students, and friends.
Higher Jiu Jitsu has been in the making for many years. The journey has been filled with ups and downs. There is so much more to be, and do. And yet every day, and in every way, we’re going higher and higher.