Social media is so weird. I primarily use Twitter. I have a presence on other platforms, but I’m not active. They are mostly there so I can loosely keep up with rugby and jiu jitsu people from my past.
But to say that it’s a free exchange of ideas and a platform where everyone has a voice is kind of silly. Not everyone has an equal voice. For example, I could have a really good (or really bad) idea that I want to share…
I could tweet, “I think ______.” and get no response.
YouTock McInstagram could tweet the exact same thing a month later and start a huge conversation around it.
I’m not complaining here–I don’t want all the attention, responsibility, and eventual grief that would go along with having that kind of presence.
But I think it’s funny that I’ve basically shadow banned myself on Twitter simply by being so boring and unengaging. I don’t think there’s any amount of novel ideas that could reverse that situation.
I don’t like to do this, but I had to take somebody down a peg or two in training last night.
Background – How I Usually Roll
I have this thing that I try to do when I roll with lower belts–I try to focus on giving them something in the 5 minutes we have together that will help them improve. I do this because I feel like higher belts often do this with me, and I really appreciate it when they do. I feel like they are, in some way, donating a little piece of their time on earth to me.
I know that’s not 100% the case–we actually both get something out of them “being nice”. Being on the “giving” end of this equation more often as I grow in jiu jitsu, I’m aware that setting the tone and path of a roll with a lower belt can greatly benefit me.
For instance, if I’m rolling with a lower belt who likes to transition and move a lot, I could just put the brakes on them. Well, some of them anyway. But I usually don’t. I try to make the roll as active as I can. I need to get better at transitioning and movement too, so it’s a win/win in a lot of ways.
It’s sort of an extrapolation of the idea I wrote about earlier describing how I like to roll with baby white belts and keep the “vocabulary and syntax” of the roll simple.
I had a discussion about this with Professor Dave the other day after training, and his position on that was, “Yeah…that’s not a bad thing to do, and it’s really nice of you, but you can’t be nice all the time. They, especially the guys, need to understand how powerful jiu jitsu is, and it’s your responsibility to be a part of making it clear to them.”
The Sappy, “Feelings” Part Of This
I don’t feel like I’m very selfish about jiu jitsu. At least, I hope I’m not selfish.
I don’t need to win every round. In fact, I don’t need to win any rounds. I just enjoy training. It’s not all about me and my journey for me–it’s about us. I want people to look forward to training with me, not dread it.
I think I feel this way because I’m not the best at interacting with people in normal social situations. Jiu jitsu gives me a way to connect with other people in a way that’s more natural and comfortable for me. I want to foster that experience because it is so much more rewarding to me than winning.
That may seem very strange for a lot of people, but it’s true for me.
I don’t get to be in many situations where I feel like people understand me. Just writing this post has made me aware that the ability to share an experience with another person is probably the number one thing I get out of jiu jitsu.
Wow. That will have to be another post.
Back To The Story…
My talk with Professor Dave was on Saturday. Last night was Tuesday.
There were four “big guys” in class last night. A really tough and hard-nosed brown belt, me (purple), and two 3 stripe white belts. “Brown” and I both took a white belt as a partner for drilling and technique.
The guy I was with is a really good guy. I like him a lot. I enjoy training with him, both for technique and in sparring. He’s about 50 pounds heavier and 20 years younger. My cardio is much better than his. Of course, there’s also a skill level difference that can mostly be chalked up to time on the mat. If this guy keeps training, drops some weight, and commits to building a cardio base, he’ll be WAAAAAAY better than I am right now by the time he’s my age.
I really want that to happen for him.
We’ve rolled together several times, and it’s always fun. The usual script is that I take it down a couple of notches, chill, and pay attention to what he’s trying to do. I exploit his big mistakes, flow with it when he’s on the right track, get into spots that let me work on escapes, try and develop some newer stuff I’m working on, etc.
Maybe for the last minute I’ll shift into a higher gear for a bit. Again, the goal is to be in a roll that helps both of us get better. Of the two of us, I’m the one who has more ability to create that situation, and that’s what I try to do. I feel like it’s my responsibility.
But last night, I was sensing that my man was getting a little too big for his britches. I started realizing that he wasn’t aware of the size of the gap between us. Maybe he wasn’t aware of what was actually happening during our rounds?
And I realized it was my fault. I’m the one who has been dictating what happens during our time together. I own that situation–not only the physical part, but the mental part as well.
We started drilling the night’s techniques, and our boy started coaching me up from the get-go. Now, granted, we were working some stuff I’ve not seen recently, don’t attempt very often, and am not especially suited for physically. In short, we were working on what are probably my greatest weaknesses. I actually did need a lot of the help he was offering.
When drilling, I often pause and think about what’s next, if everything is in the right place, what my other options (that better suit me) could be in this situation, how to make this easier, how to make it “click” for me, etc.
Every time I’d pause, he’d correct me. Every time.
I’m actually good with that, every night, every technique, from any belt. Most people don’t do this because it’s considered bad form, but when they do, I’m fine with it. They just watched the same demonstration I did, and they undoubtedly picked up some things I didn’t.
My line of thinking is, “Hey…he’s paying attention to what I do and going over the steps as I do them. Actually, it’s pretty freaking awesome–he’s getting mental reps during my physical reps!”
That’s a great habit.
And he really did help me a couple of times by mentioning something I’d left out or reminding me what I need to do next. But a white belt coaching someone during drilling is a bit of a red flag, especially when it’s excessive. And it’s not something he’s ever done in the past. It crossed my mind that, “Dude, there are lots of purple belts (mean ones) who would not be cool with this. At all. Keep doing the mental reps, but you should do them in your head.”
Whatever. It was working for me. If someone else has a problem with it, they can deal with it when he’s their partner. It’s more about etiquette than anything else, and I don’t put a ton of stock in etiquette. If what you’re doing is helping me, etiquette can go pound sand.
But then, there was that one remark that bit me. I’d released a sleeve grip (mistake), and he showed me his sleeve, shifted a bit, and said, “See…I’m out. If you let go of this sleeve, you’re screwed.”
Pride and ego were setting off alarms. Now, I’m keenly aware that my pride and my ego are MY problems, so I HAD to let that statement go. I had to let it go for myself–it’s a discipline thing. I don’t want to be a person who gives someone else the power to goad me into a reaction over something as silly as an offhand comment.
And I knew he didn’t mean anything by it. I knew it wasn’t said with a disrespectful intent.
At the same time, “Does he know that lots of guys would take this as a sign of disrespect?” Again, they can deal with that if they choose. I’m here to drill, not enforce manners.
Time To Roll
At our gym, we start with ladies choosing their partners for sparring first, then upper belts, straight down the line. I’ve been out of town for a couple of months, so of course, Big Brown smiles and chooses me for the first round.
And he put it on me. That’s what I like about this guy actually…no nice rolls. For anybody. I mean, he’s very respectful with ladies and smaller white belts, but if you have a colored belt or any kind of size/strength, he’s going to let you know what’s up.
Brown was probably going to pick someone else for round two, and I was hoping he’d pick my technique partner so that I could choose that other 3-stripe white belt to roll with. He’s bigger than my technique partner, and he just moved to town and is new to our gym. I’d never had a chance to roll with him, and I absolutely LOVE rolling with new people.
But coach shook things up and let the white belts pick their partners.
My drilling partner immediately pointed at me with a big grin on his face and rubbed his hands together. The body language said, “I hope you’re ready because I’m gonna get you!”
That’s when I really had to come to terms with what Professor Dave had told me on Saturday. “This guy doesn’t understand how real this ‘murder simulation’ game we’re playing can be. He doesn’t know, truly know, how vulnerable he his. He thinks that because I’m friendly, old, slow, and smaller than him, we’re on the same level, or at least close.”
“He thinks my position in this room is just honorary. He doesn’t see me as ‘real’.”
I realized that I’ve made our time together so “fun” that he wasn’t aware that he’s a rest round for me, even when he’s trying hard.
He thinks he’s been getting all those sweeps, passes, top positions, and submission attempts by himself.
He thinks my 75% top pressure is my 100% top pressure.
He thinks I’ve been releasing that pressure because he’s making me, not because I’m voluntarily moving on.
This was exactly what Professor Dave was talking about. I realized I was going to have to make this guy a tapping machine for the next 5 minutes.
I wasn’t very happy about that, but…
Bell rings. Slap five. Fist bump.
It did not take the entire five minutes for me to clear up the situation for him. At least, I hope it’s now clear to him; it should be. It was a pretty epic beat down–a big-guy-jiu-jitsu, tap-you-with-pressure-(again) beat down. It should have been apparent to him after about 90 seconds that this wasn’t just him having an off night. I do know that he didn’t want to complete the round–he declared “no mas” with about 40 seconds left.
But, being a good partner, I encouraged him to keep going. 🙂
I didn’t talk to him about it afterwards. I just said, “Good job, man. That was a tough round.”
I have no idea what he was thinking about during the round. I’m not sure if he went home and thought about it afterwards. He’s a pretty smart guy, so I have to assume it made an impression.
But I’m almost positive he won’t be smiling, rubbing his hands together, and licking his chops before our next roll.
I didn’t get an Instafest from YouTube Music yet, but I was able to generate one based on my last.fm account. Actually was able to generate a different one for lifetime vs last six months. I’m happy with this one.
Two things of note here:
There’s no way I could afford a ticket to this festival
I hope we soon get to a place where people decline to fight in public because they know someone will film and post it, and they don’t want to look like morons in front of the world.
These two are pathetic. What are they even doing during this “fight”? I’m honestly surprised that they had enough gas in the tank to go this long, and if you were to ask me who won this fight, I’d say “cardio”.
Of course, guy in black sweatshirt can’t go out with a draw in the dummy contest, so he says “HOLD MY BEER–NOBODY KNOCKS ME OUT BUT ME!!!!”
I also really like the wife/girlfriend of the other guy coming up and hugging/congratulating him as if he just did something.
The only injury that could have come out of that confrontation was chaffing from these two rubbing their fat bellies against each other.
People…please stop fighting in public. If you want to embarrass yourself, start with dancing and singing. Baby steps. There are levels to this game.
Ok. I’m weird. I’m the guy (the only one) who uses YouTube Music as my primary streaming service. I’m insanely jealous of all the cool Instafest auto-generated music festival posters I’ve seen lately, and I’d love to get in on the fun.
Unfortunately, when I try to generate one with my Spotify account, I’m 0-fer. Even if I use the “All Time” setting. I used Spotify a lot back in the day…even had a fair number of subscribers for my Damn Good Texas Country playlist.
Even if I could get that to work, it wouldn’t reflect all the new stuff I’ve been listening to since moving platforms. Yes…I’m aware Spotify’s user experience is slightly better, but it’s hard to move away from ad-free YouTube.
If any college student has some time, please write an Instafest-For-YouTube app.
These are good ideas if your boyfriend/husband is anything like me. If he’s not, I guess something like Yellowstone Cologne would be good? Can’t imagine what this would smell like, but I couldn’t find a cologne that is associated with any other soap operas. Yes…this is a real thing.
And if not cologne, I guess some kind of primping beard product or some such? It’s hard for me to say. This will give him something to do while you’re out looking for a new boyfriend.
But here are things I’d appreciate:
All the useful kinds of tape. Scotch tape isn’t in here because it’s not all that useful. You could use it to wrap these gifts I guess, but it’s not really necessary.
Cliff Notes Classics–it’s possible you’ll have to read these to him. I’d like to have these just so I could bring these books up and sound like I’m smart, because the other person probably hasn’t read them either. You could buy the real books and make him feel like a failure for continuing not to read them.
Nine volt batteries. Smoke alarm batteries only go bad at night. The guy always seems to be dealing with it. Buy these batteries and hide them–don’t give them as a gift. The real gift will be when the stupid alarm start chirping and you tell him you have batteries set aside for this situation. You’ll get to go right back to sleep, and he’ll be really appreciative that you thought ahead and made his job easier.
If I could pick one Christmas with to be granted this year, it’d be to go back in time and change my relationship with enterprise and/or solution architecture modeling tools.
Instead of starting my tool usage with unlimited options for modeling standards and trying to navigate all the possible ways to model the environment, I’d like to start with a small set of modeling standards and trying to figure out a way to model what I need within those parameters.
I’m thinking Archimate, UML, and BPMN.
I’d like to make this the box I’m willing/allowed to play in, and figure it out from there.
Luckily, whether or not this happens now is mostly within my control!
Lately, I’ve been approaching my rolls with new-ish white belts as a conversation in a language we are both learning. I’m not a native speaker, but I’m more fluent in the language than they are. And no matter the differences in our ability, it’s on me to make sure we both enjoy the conversation.
You’ve probably seen the old analogy regarding BJJ and language:
White belt is like learning the letters of the alphabet
Blue belt is like learning that the letters make words
Purple belt is learning how to construct sentences out of words
Brown belt is the ability to write cogent paragraphs
Black belt is the ability to write poetry
I like this analogy on one level, but on another level I think there’s something missing. This analogy is all about your personal relationship with a language, but BJJ is about interacting with others–it’s a conversation.
And it’s not like anyone begins BJJ with zero knowledge of how their body works and can move. It’s not like people don’t have arms and legs that bend before their first class. And they’re aware of other people’s anatomy as well, even though they may not understand how to manipulate it. They’ve probably even played other sports at some point.
In other words, people are already aware of the CONCEPTS of letters/words/sentences/paragraphs/poetry. They just don’t know how to construct those things in THIS LANGUAGE.
So I think a better analogy than the one above is that BJJ is like achieving fluency in a foreign language. When I think of it from this perspective, it gives me a mindset I can actually take into training.
While I’m just a purple belt and can’t have a high level “intellectual conversation” with a black belt, I feel like I have a decent grip on the “language”–think someone whose native language is Spanish, but has lived in the U.S. for 10 years or so. There aren’t many situations where I’m completely lost, but I’m also keenly aware when people are talking over my head.
I incorrectly conjugate verbs every now and then (bad grips). Some verbs I do this with habitually.
I have a thick accent (leave out finer details in techniques).
I revert back to Spanglish sometimes when I get stuck expressing myself (muscle through stuff).
But I can roll with brown and black belts and they know what I’m trying to do/communicate. They are aware of all the stuff I’m doing wrong, and can choose to correct me (make me pay for the mistakes), or just keep the conversation going. But it’s really on them to decide how the conversation is going to go.
I’ve rolled a few rounds with brand new white belts recently, and I’ve tried to approach those rolls with this mindset–this is a person who has a limited knowledge of the language. They know a few key words and phrases, but our conversations are going to be limited.
It’s on me to carry the conversation.
Think about it this way–if you met someone who knew a few English words and phrases around food and sports, you wouldn’t try to have a conversation with them about politics or economics. And you definitely wouldn’t try to talk with them about how politics and economics are connected. You’d stick with topics they know–food and sports.
So in these rolls, we’re keeping the topic mostly limited to closed guard and mount. Their sweeps, passes, and attacks will be really basic, and probably a bit sloppy. But I understand what they are trying to do. Even if they get the nouns and adjectives out of order or leave out articles in their “sentence”, I get the idea they are trying to express.
And it’s on me to keep the conversation alive. That may mean doing things like giving up a sweep or slowing down the “conversation” so that they can see/feel the armbar opportunity, even though I’d never intentionally leave my arm in that spot with a fluent speaker. I can even use the “conversation” as a way to help them increase their grasp of the “language”.
Imagine someone says to you, “I enjoying food with spicies.” You may respond with, “Oh…you enjoy spicy foods! I enjoy spicy food also!” What you’ve done is correct them without being a jackass about it–you’ve shown them that you understand, and you have modeled the correct syntax for them. That gets registered in their brain and helps them later.
I had a situation like this with a new white belt last night. He had me mounted and was trying to cross collar choke me–all muscle and pulling on lapels. It wasn’t working at all, but I totally knew what he was trying to do. More importantly, I could identify his major mistakes. My response in this “conversation” was to roll into his guard, break it open, knee cut pass, mount him, and cross-collar choke him.
All stuff he’s seen.
He got it immediately. After the roll he asked why my choke worked and his didn’t. DINGDINGDING!!!! He’s trying to learn the correct way to express himself in this language.
Now, to be fair, a black belt would have watched this and chuckled at my simple, “I like spicy food” sentence construction. The next roll they’d Ezekiel choke me while I have them mounted. In affect, they are saying to me:
“While mild and sweet dishes are occasionally pleasing to me when my pallet is in a particularly sensitive state, I sometime throw caution to the wind and indulge in spicy foods in order to vicariously satisfy my unquenched thirst for adventure.”
Big words. Idioms. Complex sentence structure. Abstraction of concepts.
The reason I wanted to share this tweet was because I recently had a realization about this situation at a more macro level.
A couple of weeks ago we took our kids to visit the Shy Wolf Sanctuary in Naples. This facility houses lots of different animals, and they’ve done genetic testing on them all to identify the percentage of wolf and dog in each one. Most of the animals are 50-60% dog. They are still dangerous animals, but are more social and used to people, and are near the front of the facility. Even at first glance your brain immediately registers that, “Oh…this isn’t just a dog.”
Wolf-Dogs are dangerous. But they can be sweet and get along with the rest of us in most cases. There’s an issue every now and then maybe, but for the most part, they’re probably best described as really tough/scrappy dogs that could quite possibly lose it on you if you aren’t careful. So be careful and aware with them.
As you go farther into the facility, you reach enclosures housing animals that are almost all wolf. When you make eye contact, you know the difference between a wolf and a wolf-dog.
Like…please do NOT put me in that enclosure. Please.
How That Relates To Men
Being around these animals gave me a spark of inspiration/realization that I think accurately demonstrates how people (mostly men) perceive their world, and how their perceptions are horribly skewed, especially in this era of general comfort and security.
There are Wolves. There are Wolf-Dogs. And there are Pets.
Most men think they are Wolves, but they are actually just Pets. They’ve never actually been tested. They’ve definitely never encountered a Wolf (that they know of); probably never even smelled one. They don’t really even have a concept of what a Wolf is. It’s just a word, and they think it applies to them because they have all the same physical parts as a Wolf.
Then there are Wolf-Dogs. I put myself in this category. I know a lot of other Wolf-Dogs too. But Wolf-Dogs are separated into two different groups–those who know we are Wolf Dogs, and those who, like Pets, think they are Wolves. But it’s obvious to all Wolf-Dogs that Pets definitely are NOT Wolves.
How do Wolf-Dogs become self-aware? How do we come to the conclusion that we are neither Wolves nor Pets? It’s actually pretty simple–you have to be exposed to both Wolves and Pets to understand that you lie somewhere in the middle. It’s easy to have an encounter with a Pet. They are everywhere. In fact, it’s almost impossible to avoid them. And you know that you aren’t a Pet, which is why so many Wolf-Dogs mistakenly believe themselves to be Wolves: “If I’m not a Pet, I must be a Wolf.”
I think (pure conjecture) that most Pets have the capacity to transform themselves into Wolf-Dogs. Like the tweet above implies, it just takes an awareness of where you lie and a commitment to become a Wolf-Dog. Exposure to a Wolf-Dog is enough to start this journey.
But Wolves are a different story. They are rare, and you usually haven’t identified them as what they are until it’s too late. If you’ve ever encountered an actual Wolf, you knew within a few seconds that they are a different thing. Just like the delineation at the wolf sanctuary, it’s pretty obvious what the difference is.
What is an actual Wolf?
It’s a little tough to explain, but know this–a Wolf will fight you to the death without ever considering the possibility that there’s another option for resolution. A Pet doesn’t stand a chance against them. A Wolf-Dog may be able to inflict some damage, but they aren’t committed to the fight the way a real Wolf is. And a real Wolf will go at another real Wolf as if it were a Pet.
A real Wolf regards everything else in existence as if it were a Pet, even other Wolves.
How Does This Relate To BJJ/Fighting/Sports?
I think most people who train in a live-sparring martial art (wrestling, boxing, bjj, etc.), and lots of physically demanding sports, are Wolf-Dogs. And many of them may never encounter a Wolf in their sport. That’s ok–we need a lot more Wolf-Dogs than Pets in this world. But it would be nice if more of these Wolf-Dogs could encounter an actual Wolf at least once.
For example, I’ve been to a couple of amateur MMA competitions in the last few months. A lot of Wolf-Dogs in these things, and they are sorting out who the Wolves are at this level. That’s a good thing. Anybody willing to step into a cage and fight is at least Wolf-Dog in my book. In fact, they are the top of the Wolf-Dog food chain–plenty of legit Wolf-Dogs have zero interest in getting in there and risking their health just to find out where they lie in that spectrum. I’m the first to admit that I’m in that crowd.
You can watch these fights and figure out pretty quickly who isn’t a Wolf though:
Tap to punches? Not a Wolf.
Tap to fatigue? Not a Wolf.
Coast for the last round because you’re clearly up two rounds already? Not a wolf.
Again, I’m not throwing shade here–I wouldn’t go in there and do that against anyone, and definitely not for free.
How Do I Know So Much About Wolves?
Well, I’m not saying I do. But I’ve rolled with a couple of Wolves (top-tier fighters), and it taught me enough to know that they have something I don’t. For instance, almost everyone I’ve ever rolled with has had me mounted or been in top half guard with me at some point. When that happens, I’m thinking about applying whatever jiu jitsu I have to change the situation.
But with the Wolves, it’s different when they actually decide to turn it on. In those situations, my mind doesn’t immediately go to implementing BJJ. The first place my mind goes is the realization that this person’s instinct is to end my life in this situation. It’s palpable and it’s undeniable. There is a CLEAR difference between their ability/willingness to go to a place I don’t even want to be capable of going to.
So What Am I Saying?
I guess, if there’s any point to this (and I’m doubting there is), is that I think the world would be a better place if we all took the time to get a clear understanding of exactly what we are and where we fall in the spectrum. And we need a lot more people to level up to Wolf-Dog.
There’s nothing wrong with being a Pet necessarily, but people need to be aware of being a Pet. And if that’s what they end up choosing, they should probably be more careful with their words and actions, especially around Wolves. Wolf-Dogs are generally cool with Pets and can just laugh to themselves when they encounter one who is overstepping their abilities. Wolves are ultimately going to be a lot less forgiving, and the consequences will be more severe.
And we Wolf-Dogs need to continually seek out Wolves and get ourselves straight as well. Maybe you’ll find that you’re actually a Wolf too. But the main benefit is identifying where you are on that spectrum. Once you do, continually seek out Wolves whenever/wherever you can.
The ability to quickly identify a Wolf may pay off one day.
I just had the realization that I’m a lot like a dog that was bred for work. If I’m tasked with something difficult that requires my full attention and skill set, I’ll be happy and effective. Bonus if it’s a task that requires me to grow my skills.
But if I don’t have that job to do, I can be pretty dang annoying.
Shock and awe! Did not see this coming. I honestly thought I was at least a year away from this happening. A lot to say about that, but I’ll save it for a different post.
My general opinion on belts/stripes is that I just wear whatever my instructor tells me to wear. A changing belt color doesn’t change anything about me from one day to the next. For me, a promotion doesn’t need to be anything more than him throwing a stiff new belt at me at the end of training and saying, “Wear this the next time you come in here. ”
But I’ll admit that I’ve taken some time to pause and reflect on this one for several reasons, which will also result in more posts if I’m not too lazy to write them. I’m starting to understand why promotion is a big deal in the broader sense, even though the ceremony of it all may not mean that much to me personally.
I had to switch gyms when I started back training in Florida in December 2021. As much as I love everything about Off The Grid, the class schedule was a struggle for me. I meant to get over there and train for the whole month of November, but just couldn’t make the classes. Being a one car family now didn’t help any either. When I texted Professor Frank to tell him my situation, he immediately responded, “Go train with David–I’m just happy to hear that you’re going to be training again!”
That’s what kind of guy he is. None of that crap about loyalty or anything–he’s just happy that I’ve got the BJJ bug (that he put there) and am continuing.
Anyway, I showed up to class at Carlson Gracie Melbourne as I normally do and was warming up when I all of a sudden saw a ton of my old training partners and Frank there. I knew then that something was up, and immediately realized I was probably being promoted. Why else would they show up here and sneaking in through the back? Honestly, it was very awkward for me. I don’t like being the center of attention.
But…man! I can’t express how it feels that so many of the people who built me showed up for this. When Frank and David called me up at the beginning of class and said, “You’re number is up!” I was overwhelmed. I mean, I didn’t cry or anything, but I really didn’t know how to react. I was speechless.
As I later told my old teammates in a post, I don’t even feel like I “have” any jiu jitsu really. I just have little pieces of their jiu jitsu that I’ve cobbled together. Every movement, trick, defense, submission, transition, escape I have came about from what they’ve taught me and beat into me. My new gym has definitely made a big contribution in a short period of time (new perspectives–also a separate post), but the bulk of the reps and rounds were with these folks.
Being promoted by both of my coaches at the same time took away a lot of the awkwardness. And it says so much about both of these instructors that it went down like this. That David would invite the OTG crew and that they would show up says everything about why I consider these gyms my extended family.
And then…my boy Ed got his purple belt too! Ed and I started BJJ on the same day. We were promoted to blue belt together. He’s my best BJJ frienemy. We have spent countless hours beating the doo-doo out of each other. For instance, one day we were the only two people at an open mat and we decided to roll until one of us tapped.
I lost, but it took us 56 minutes to get to decision. Ed is my boy!
So, enough of the mushy stuff. Like I said, I have a lot more of that coming. But here are some stats, because people love to ask the question, “How long does it take to get your purple belt?” Your mileage may vary, and I know people who are younger and more athletic who’ve done it a lot faster than me, but..
Training sessions: 392 as a blue belt, 594 total
Mat time: 755 hours as a blue belt, 1,110 hours total
Days: 1,626 as a blue belt (*1,063 discounting covid break), 1,519 total
Uncountable number of taps
1 Competition as a blue belt
1 dislocated/broken rib
1,000,000 lessons learned
1,000,001 lessons forgotten
A bunch of connections made with people I probably wouldn’t know otherwise
A lot of introspection and realization (jiu jitsu really is life)
Never ending excitement about showing up to the next class
As much as I can’t wait to just get back to grinding/training and forget about belts, this has forced me to realize a few things about this art that separates it from any thing else I’ve ever done. Not much of it is belt specific–it’s more about the _________ that is jiu jitsu. I had do leave a blank there, because I don’t know if there’s a word in English that describes what BJJ is.
If that word exists in another language, I don’t know that either.
Last night, at the end of class, David called Z (I won’t out his name) up to talk to us about his experience competing last weekend. Z started off by telling us about his first two competitions, and how he’s evolved through the process of training.
He talked about his attitude/approach towards competing the first time out, and how he got beat and injured at this competition. And he felt like he’d let his teammates down. Even though I knew he was talking about the past, I hated to hear that he’d felt this way.
In his second competition, he got some wins, and he felt redeemed. He said his time actually learning and applying knowledge instead of relying on aggression and ego made the difference.
Last weekend, he lost. But he was super excited about what he accomplished. His goal was to control the match–both himself and his opponent. Though he lost by an advantage, he felt like he had a handle on the situation the whole time.
Then he started talking more broadly. He told us a little about the person he was before he joined the gym and started training–angry, frustrated, alienated, lonely, unhappy, etc. He thanked everybody for being accepting of him, helping him, loving him (violently), and being a part of changing himself. Of course, that’s not word-for-word what he said, but I don’t think he’d mind me taking some liberties here, because I think I know from experience these are all things that he meant.
He was tearing up as he spoke. And I was thankful it was the end of class and crazy humid last night so that my sweat could camouflage my tears too. The whole time I was thinking, “Man…I hope he’s about to get his blue belt, because THIS is what it’s all about. Not winning tournaments.”
So I was super happy when David pulled out the blue belt and gave it to him. Of course, that broke him and he started crying for real.
It really touched me to see someone affected by BJJ this way. I could relate to everything he was saying. Granted, my “aha moment” didn’t come from BJJ, but knowing that light came on for someone is cool, no matter how they got there. And he was up there spilling it in front of 30 people, many of whom he probably didn’t know that well on a personal level. I mean, I didn’t know anything about Z until last night. Now I feel really bonded with him.
After class, I shared a little bit with him about how I could relate a lot to what he talked about. As I told him, there are countless guys out there who have amazing jiu jitsu and can easily whoop us both, yet they can’t comprehend what he’d just said. Some don’t get it because they are nice, happy-go-lucky people to begin with. But there are a lot of others who are still what he used to be. They are BJJ world beaters, but they have not realized who their biggest opponent is. Maybe they even dodge this opponent–I can’t speak to their journey.
Of course, it’s a daily fight. And there are plenty of days when you lose. But, just like in BJJ, you get better at the dance. You start seeing the stuff you have to defend against coming at you sooner. Sometimes you can even chuckle at the simplicity of the coming attack (that you’re mounting against yourself). You continue to learn how the difficulties and struggles you experience can be your greatest opportunities if you are willing to let go and just flow with them.
You start realizing that sometimes the best “move” in an awfully uncomfortable situation is to simply stop and take a deep breath.
This week in particular, I needed to be reminded of all the things Z said.
Am I in rigorous training against false impressions?
Yes I am!
Wait…am I? Let’s get real.
I see false impressions coming from a few different sources. There are false impressions that are purposefully made by others (“fake news”), there are false impressions I generate myself because I’m misreading situations (“bad comprehension”), and there are false impressions I generate myself because they fit with my inner worldview/narrative (“wishful thinking”). I think I’ll address these in reverse order, because that’s the order that I have the most control over.
*This is part of the Daily Stoic Journal I’m keeping, which is a companion to the Daily Stoic book. I’m on my 3rd time around reading this book, and can’t recommend it enough if you’re looking for an framework for living a happy life. I don’t (and won’t) post everything I write for this journal publicly, at least not yet. But this is one I’m good with letting out into the wild.
The job here, and it’s a tough one, is to keep my own thoughts, preferences, and opinions in check. Do I perceive this as a good thing because it aligns with the way I think the world should work? Or because it agrees with the way I think the world actually works? Do I perceive it as a bad thing because it goes against the way I want things to be, or the way I perceive they are? Have I decided who the good guys and bad guys are beforehand, then try to cram everything into that narrative?
One thing I do try to guard against is taking events personally. I try to at least look at them objectively to see if they line up. An example would be when I don’t approve of something one of the kids does or says. I have to immediately realize this isn’t (usually) intended to make me angry–it’s to further their personal agenda, which will never line up 100% with the story I’m trying to write about my own life.
Does that mean I let it go? Absolutely not. It just means I try not take it personally.
Am I always successful in not taking it personally? I wish. But not even close. An example would be someone shirking responsibility. See…even in typing that sentence I used the word “shirk” instead of the phrase “not meeting”. I have to set aside my own feelings about people who shirk don’t meet responsibility to realize it’s something that is common in life, and something I’ve been guilty of myself countless times. But I do have to guard against taking that one personally, especially when it’s a responsibility to me.
In the instances I do take things personally, it helps for me to write them down and try to objectively see them through the other person’s eyes. That doesn’t mean that I always come down on the side of understanding why they did what they did. Sometimes I can still find a rational flaw in their motivation, or lack of motivation. But it at least helps me to find a rational flaw instead of a personal flaw.
And I’m not gonna lie–sometimes I can see no motivation from a person other than them getting what they want without regard for how others are affected. This is a real thing. It happens. And it’s another thing I’ve done countless times. Luckily, lots of people have been gracious enough to forgive me, and I can only make an effort to be just as gracious. But that’s not the topic here, so I don’t have to give myself that examination today. 😀
Another tough one, but at least it’s easier to recover from this one. I can always go back and apologize for misunderstanding. I can always re-absorb the information with more concentration, research the parts I don’t understand, and try to get context. I think the important thing here is to filter out what actually matters and needs further study. A good rule of thumb here is probably to give anything that gets a strong response out of me a closer inspection. If it makes me angry, sad, or scared, I should probably try to understand it better to find out if my reaction is warranted.
I guess this is one reason why I prefer to be alone when something upsets me. It not only keeps me from doing something reactive that I’ll regret, but it also gives me a chance to figure out exactly what part of the event bothers me and decide whether it’s worth being this upset over. Spoiler alert–it’s almost never as big of a deal as I make it out to be initially.
The other side of this is things that make me happy. I try not to inspect these as closely and take happiness at face value. Still, there’s value in stepping back every now and then and making sure I’m not just selling myself the story I want to be told. Part of that is having trust in my own perception, and I’m gaining more of that trust in myself as I grow older and have more experience.
I’m not using this term around the way it’s typically thrown around. I’m talking more about my ability to filter out all sorts of false information–a “BS Filter”. This is where I’m seeing the value of age and experience the most. Over the years, I think (hope?) I’ve gotten better at reading situations and people. I’ve learned that it helps me to look for motivation above all else. I feel like if I can understand what motivates people I can get a better idea of how their actions and words line up.
Take politicians, for example. Are there politicians out there who aren’t motivated by power and perks? I’m sure of it.
Can I name any? Uh…not with any certainty. In my experience, any politicians who don’t have these motivations aren’t likely to have risen to a level that would make me aware of them.
And the politicians are the ones that are actually pretty good at intentionally misdirecting impressions. Most of the people you have to deal with on a daily basis are amateurs at this.
Do I still get fooled? Yep. Does it happen as much as it used to? Nope.
History, both “history-history” and personal history, are a great source to start to understand patterns of behavior and begin to do some predictive analysis. I got a very late start on this in life, and I took some lumps because of it. But, luckily, I have a decent analytical mind when I decide to turn in on and focus, and I feel like I’ve made a lot of gains in the last 20 years.
I think the real key here is to be ok with other people having this “snake-oil-salesman” trait. I have to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s not their fault–they were either born with the tendency to mislead, or they learned it out of necessity. They are what they are, and it’s highly doubtful they could ever be convinced that this isn’t a trait they should foster.
As long as I know what they’re up to, I can manage my relationship with them appropriately. But I have to constantly continue “training against false impressions” by always paying attention and keeping notes.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my life is that being burned usually occurs when unrecognized “fake news” is coupled with either “wishful thinking” or “bad comprehension”.