“Fighting is actually the best thing a man can have in his soul.” – Renzo Gracie
I haven’t made a secret of my Christian beliefs, but the above statement rings true. Of course, it’s easy to say that “fighting”, as in opposition to laziness, injustice, gluten, oppression, etc. is certainly necessary in the life of a man. That is a true statement. Discipline matters, and standing up for what is right is the responsibility of every man, but I’m talking about fighting.
I’ve dabbled in the martial arts since I was a child, like many American kids who came of age in the age of “The Karate Kid” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”. My father was (still is) a martial artist, focusing on Chinese martial arts. He encouraged me down this path. I started with karate, earning a brown belt which I don’t believe I deserved, at what I now know to be a “McDojo”. I started judo shortly afterward, but the endless repetitions of breakfalls and lack of jumpkicks bored me, and I begged my dad to let me quit. It is a decision I regret to this day. I boxed a little. I did a few months of kung fu when I was 21. When I was deployed to Iraq, I did a few MCMAP (Marine Corps Martial Arts Program) classes, and that seemed to be the end of the road for me.
A little later, I started watching MMA again, this time appreciating it more that when I was a teenager. Grappling didn’t make sense to me, and my brother, who had started training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu talked my ear off about it. He shared 2 youtube videos with me,”Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: The Game of Human Chess”, and “Ribeiro Brothers Highlight “. At first, the the techniques were alien to me, but I watched these videos over and over. The athleticism and strategy was apparent. I was infected. I googled jiu jitsu relentlessly. I watched every jiu jitsu youtube vid I could find. I joined forums. I listened to podcasts. I asked a lot of stupid questions. I would start training in March of 2011, at The Jiu Jitsu Institute in Yorktown, VA, under the tutelage of Ben Eaton, who recieved his Black Belt from the aforementioned Ribeiro’s.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has changed my life. I’m a lot more confident. I no longer shy away from confrontation because I thought letting themselves be pushed around is what gentlemen do. I know that if I mess up and get in an awful situation, I can focus, and fight my way out of it, and if I defend and fight smart from the beginning, I can avoid the situation. I’ve met amazing people who are positive and supportive. It feels the same to me as playing music in a band setting, in that there is theory, but it’s still a collaborative, creative act, and there’s room for your personality to shine through. In September of 2013 I was awarded my Blue Belt, and I will someday wear a Black Belt. I will learn other martial arts. I will get my certifications in as many military systems I can, I will be going the Army’s MACP training very soon. I just started helping teach the Gracie Academy’s “Women Empowered” curriculum to help prevent sexual assault, this is a cause that is near to my heart. I hope the students never have to use the skills taught in the program, but if they do, that they are executed effectively. I will continue to be disciplined and continue to refine my mind and body. Jesus saved my soul, and fighting has helped me realize that it’s worth preserving and investing.