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BJJ Advice & Opinions

When the Fire Extinguishes

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Jiu-jitsu saved my life! Jiu-jitsu is the answer! Jiu-jitsu is therapy! Jiu-jitsu is life! I have said and meant these words more times than I can even count, and they are all accurate statements. At many points in my life, jiu-jitsu felt like it was all I had. And suddenly, I find myself in a conundrum.  My passion has died. So, how am I supposed to go on when I have zero fervor, enthusiasm, or drive? 

Life served me a plate of uncertainty and despair, and during that time, I’ve found myself losing the inspiration to keep training. Living became meaningless, and with it, so did jiu-jitsu. Every day feels harder to find a reason to get up and go on with my life, and the idea of heading to the mats and getting some rolls is beyond far-fetched. The things that once made me feel complete today feel heavy and empty. 

Nonetheless, I force myself to train because I know how easy it is to lose control and spiral down rapidly. But did I come back too soon? Instead of feeling joy and glee, lately, I spend the entire class trying to hold tears back. 

I can hear the instructor teach, but none of the words register. It’s like a firewall has been installed, and I longer have access to that area of my brain. I make every effort to snap out of it, pay attention, and learn, but my brain refuses to cooperate. Instead of the therapy it once was, I am stressing out and regressing. 

Grief is different for everyone. Mine comes with a great deal of numbness, and for the first time in 10 years, I feel no pain. I am well aware that my injuries have not healed miraculously, and I know the lack of pain is my brain protecting me from myself. But the numbness is persistent. 

I wish I could adequately describe the absence of feeling, but every time I try, I fail miserably. For the past few weeks, I feel nothing; not hunger, muscle aches, the torn soft tissue in my rib, or the damaged meniscus and ligament in my knee. I can’t even feel exhaustion. 

I feel nothing but sorrow and the intense need to weep and isolate myself. Rolling is intimate, in your face, and physical. Pushing myself to roll allows me to combat the need for isolation and forces me out of my newly found comfort zone. However, this current state of numbness has me preemptively tapping for fear of breaking something before I can feel it. 

Rolling shuts my brain off and focuses my mind on the task at hand instead of my sorrow. I just wish it felt the way it used to again. 

For the better part of 6 years, I submerged myself into jiu-jitsu. I breathed it, lived it, dreamt it. I went from a casual practitioner to an obsessed disciple. What started as a twice a week pastime became a daily—and on many occasions twice a day—commitment. No obligation or attraction mattered more than making it to class or open mat. I planned my schedule around mat time and can’t even count the date nights, anniversaries, and festivities I missed in the name of training. As my world crumbled, I began to regret missing out on those moments and found myself with nothing to show for the time invested. 

Here I was, losing my identity, my northern star, and life as I knew it, and the one thing I had dedicated my life to was useless at the most crucial moment. So I became angry for prioritizing jiu-jitsu all these years and overlooking my life away from the mats. I started wondering all the “What ifs.” 

If I had dedicated the time I had given to jiu-jitsu to become a doctor, maybe I could have been helpful during this time of need. Perhaps If I had been more present, I would be better suited to assist in critical affairs. 

Slowly but surely, I became more and more broken. Then it hit me. More knowledge of medicine may have been meaningless with the situation I faced. It may have been worse to know how to and not be able to help. Besides, I would have been miserable honing those skills in a school setting. The years I invested in jiu-jitsu have been nothing short of majestic. I enjoyed every part of my training. I became obsessed with it because it made me feel joy. Jiu-jitsu stimulated my mind and allowed me to communicate. And truth to be told, it prepared me to handle the worst of situations more calmly. Through training, I learned to breathe through and think through the worst of circumstances before losing control. 

Moreover, at the drop of a hat, my BJJ tribe was there for me. Ready to pick up where I left off. I am so lucky to have a team that will rally behind one another to ensure we all come ahead. We genuinely are all for one and one for all. And this situation proved it again. 

Will my passion ever re-ignite? I am not sure. 

Will rolls ever regain their thrilling and titillating nature? Only time will tell. 

But I know that my journey is meant for more than just myself. And while I don’t think I OWE anyone anything, I have an obligation to his memory and the members of my jiu-jitsu life to give it my best effort to try. 

Last weekend I traveled to train with one of my favorite instructors, and he summarized it perfectly. Chad Lyman closed his seminar with the following words: 

“If you are a little broken, that’s ok. Most of us are broken in some way. Out of brokenness comes growth. We break the ground to grow food. On a rainy day, the sky breaks for the sun to shine through. We all come to the mats broken in some way. But we must continue to train. Out of broken things comes healing, and out of healing comes strength. So, if you are broken, this is a good place to be”

I will take his advice, and I will build from my current broken and imperfect state in the Wabi-Sabi way.

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