I’m Shane and I’m a white belt. I’ve been training in a few two-month stints since 2011 but more consistently since July 2020. My knowledge of jiu jitsu and how to apply it is basic, limited, and I’m routinely reminded when rolling that I might also be a bit naïve. If I'm agitated or frustrated walking onto the mat I'm at a high risk of injury. If I have any expectations about a new training partner when commencing a roll I can be caught quickly in a submission that I might over-defend and risk injury. (Being aware of these things is offering me protection these days...)
But, isn’t this the journey of every newcomer to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? Not exactly.
The landscape of jiu jitsu is constantly evolving and refreshing and so is the experience of people starting out in jiu jitsu. There are growing divides between gyms and factions on methods of teaching, streams of technique and even views on whether some submissions, safe or not, are fair play. Extensive time spent in one gym or even in one train of thought about jiu jitsu might be the path to a very narrow experience of jiu jitsu and limited learnings.
Jiu jitsu, like most things has become highly democratized. Its popularity and the ease of marketing anything new online has given rise to plenty of new brands of BJJ clubs and so there’s a corresponding growing tree of novel philosophies about jiu jitsu concepts and techniques. Centralized authority over BJJ is fading. Sure, there is IBJJF, which standardizes its own competitions but outside of that there really isn’t anything holding sway over the direction of jiu jitsu across the globe.
The experience of Jiu Jitsu is your own.
In an age of massive oversupply of unreliable information it’s the constants of jiu jitsu that are so appealing to me. The most important of those is the requirement for techniques in jiu jitsu to be absolutely practical and useful, with no BULLSHIT. There are plenty of egos out there in the jiu jitsu community but just as BJJ technique is based in this principle of no bullshit, its culture should strive to be the same. So while we aim to stay within that boundary every account of peoples’ experience in their jiu jitsu journey is valuable and is equally worthy of consideration and scrutiny.
Some people are working 60 hour work weeks and getting to jiu jitsu training twice a week at best, while balancing time with their families. Some are barely working or not working at all and are able to make it to training every day, up to two or three times per day. Some are 18 years old, while some are 60 years old. Some are innately calm, content and benefit from stable attention spans, while others naturally operate on fast and hard levels, pick up and run with with new information quickly.
Each individual case presents its own set of demands on nutrition, rest, discipline, time for reflection, mental and spiritual development. With the help of others from supporting fields of the jiu jitsu lifestyle I’m setting out to document the jiu jitsu journey from my perspective. I’ll use this as an opportunity to broaden my own understanding of jiu jitsu and how I and others grow through it, and through improvements to our environment.
How we feel before, during and after our BJJ training seriously and directly affects our ability to keep training, and how well we keep training. I have a big interest in the psychosomatic effects that our environment has on our wellness. The ways our minds connect with what our bodies are taking onto the mat can mean the difference between learning the realities of our capabilities in self-defense, or avoiding injury and continuing to roll for longer. In my view to optimise our state of mind for jiu jitsu (and greater life) we need to reconnect with the natural environment through nutrition, our physical surrounds, and the information we choose to take in.