The Truth in Jiu-Jitsu

200 pounds crush down, the weight slows breath, arms frame the onslaught. A brief respite against the pressure. Get to your side, get to your side I repeat to myself in silence. A slight chance opens, I slide out, the weight seems lifted, I explode. An obvious mistake, perpetual motion pushes the weight to my back. An arm wraps tight around my neck. Two on one, two on one I repeat to myself. Too slow… The action is futile, blood and air to my brain come slower than life needs. Biting down I try to withstand the inevitable. Blackness builds around the edges of my eyes, the release of death doesn’t seem far away. My hand taps my partner, air and blood flow back at normal speeds, a smile rests on my face. Rolling to my knees sweat beads off my forehead, head hangs low only for a moment. Deep breaths cement the idea I’m still here.

“Ready?” my training partner asks. A slap of hands and a knuckle bump start the process again.


The truth of Jiu-Jitsu is immediate and rewarding. Rolling is like a needed relic. In today’s society everything is immediate, but few things are rewarding in the sense of self-development. With the advent of a fast, but convoluted reality, very few people get to experience the beauty of physical truth. Rolling gives you that feeling, either of a job well done or a road map for future success.

That truth is part of why Jiu-Jitsu practitioners feel so relieved after class. They get to learn something about themselves amongst a supportive group of people trying to choke them out. The consequent ability to improve with a group of training partners and friends creates an elusive camaraderie. At the end of the day though, you have to be the one to go out there and make yourself better. Have you been able to transfer that sense of self reliance to the rest of your life?

How many times have you failed in your day-to-day life? Think of how strongly those failures weighed on you. Think of just how bad the smallest of disasters felt. Now think of how many times you’ve tapped in Jiu-Jitsu. Thousands probably. I’m sure some have felt like mini calamities (I know some of mine have), but think of how many times you were able to take that with no ill will. How many times you were able to move forward and grow from that experience. When a move was used on you and you went out and learned it. Through trial and error found a defense, or reversed the seemingly impossible situation to your advantage.


Since I can’t say it that well, let me use a quote to highlight the beauty of Jiu-Jitsu:

On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain: either you will reach a point higher up today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow. - Friedrich Nietzsche

That quote has always struck me as the perfect representation of rolling. To me, Jiu-Jitsu has always seemed like a mountain of truth that has no peak. Everyone of us practitioners is like a happy Sisyphus pushing and pulling ourselves up a never ending mountain. Every roll, every training session, every class brings us one step further in a life long pursuit of knowledge. Professor Steve is always highlighting the fact that every time he does a technique he learns something. A new little detail or before unseen wrinkle reveals itself through examined repetition.

The self inspection in Jiu-Jitsu makes us all better people. After a hard day, when you want to quit, and when one more round seems unbearable, you are forced to reach deep down and fight. Maybe you get tapped ten times in five minutes, it doesn’t matter, what matters is you made yourself a better person. Facing the fear of embarrassing yourself, looking like a fool and risking a bruised ego makes you better in every other aspect of your life. Just think of how easy it is to get out of situations in normal society. We’ve been trained to let people slide. In this martial art you get a chance to change that, get to prove to yourself your worthy and powerful. Always remember, even in defeat your climbing the mountain of truth. Because if we aren’t trying to better ourselves through sacrifice and hard work, well, we’ve lost what makes us human.


I know it’s harder said than done, but if you get tapped out twenty times tomorrow, just know you’re climbing the summit of Jiu-Jitsu. Don’t hang your head in shame, be honored in the fact that you faced your fears. Be intensely proud in the fact that you got off your ass and did something today! So many people drift through life without knowing themselves, never testing themselves against the world. Not you! Because today you’re going to go out and train, you’re going to clamber up that mountain of truth. Jiu-Jitsu will carry you past the dredges of the everyday to seek truth in life.