Nobody is born knowing how to walk. Talking and holding a conversation also take a long time to develop a sense of. But for some reason, fighting is something most adult men believe they figured out with little or no instruction or practical experience. Maybe that’s for the best. When you finally come to a Bjj gym, you can take some comfort in knowing that we have all been where you most likely are now. We understand, and want you to make it. Today, I want to explore some common responses to discussing Bjj. While fighting is generally the last thing on a Black Belt’s mind, it’s the first thing an untrained individual brings up. This leaves a natural communication barrier because both parties aren’t really clear about what we are discussing. In our world, this is a game. Yes, it will help you in fighting situations. But we are more concerned with sharpening specific skills without causing or taking damage. Safety First!
Story time: I don’t know how many other people have encountered this, but it happened to me several times and I wanted to share. It’s been 8 years since I was in the trade and I don’t think anyone will be too self conscious at this point. I would be trying to get a work friend to train, and it would inevitably come up in front of about 5-10 other guys at lunchtime. Now, this is on a construction site. It’s a very specific type of people, but I’ve also met some office people who are the same way. They’ve done it before, and I knew they would do it again. I guess it’s some kind of instinctive human behaviour. Everyone went around the circle with a story about the last time they kicked some ass. Looking back, it was a fantastic education. I listened to each story intently to see what they were getting at. Generally, the idea was “I can kick ass, so I don’t need to train”. (I decided to omit the obviously fake stories from my studies.)
I learned that most people have not kicked any ass in 10 or more years, and are not coming out of retirement soon. Keep in mind these are mostly people with jobs that they are capable of keeping. The guys who have been to prison or came from rough neighborhoods generally kept quiet. They would tell me slightly more technical stories later, without the audience. The ones who actually knew how to fight were about 2 in 10. Sometimes, there would be an old guy who fought Golden Gloves back in the day. Occasionally we would meet someone who had a Karate black belt, but it was hard to get them talking. I loved hearing the stories that the experienced fighters told, but again it was usually ten or more years ago. Some had a higher level understanding of how to create openings against another boxer/karateka. Most people’s stories were about being in either junior high or high school. Very few street fight stories were in their early twenties. The people with several street fights (especially over 30 years old) didn’t last long, and generally couldn’t hold a job. Additionally, they had near zero technical advice that was different from the others. The important lesson here is that civilized people with jobs can avoid fights for decades at a time.
I also learned that people have very simple ideas about fighting. The most common idea was being big. Large out of shape guys would lean back and smile. “You know, I’m a pretty big guy.” Most construction sites had the guy who lifted weights and took the opportunity to share how he got big and doesn’t have to worry about fighting now. Another common theme was hitting first. The ones who got in fights in the bars during their 20s had a rough idea about making a ball out of their hand, and hitting people first seemed to do the trick. Occasionally, an honest older person would admit to getting his ass kicked. That’s why he carries a gun everywhere. What I found particularly fascinating about this was how confident everyone was in their low level of Education about fighting. They believe that they would win, or in the case of the gun guy -simply kill somebody as if it was no big deal. The comforting reality here is that these guys are not going out and getting in fights. It actually doesn’t matter whether they know anything or not. Jiu Jitsu is not for everyone, and it’s ok to let most people have their illusions. We can look into the benefits of Bjj in another discussion.
The next thing that struck me about all these conversations was the amount of needless drama surrounding the subject of fighting. Remember that most of the people were very young, and it didn’t take much for them to decide it was a good reason to fight. Someone looked at them, someone bumped into them, or they were defending the honor of a chick that they should never have been around to begin with. No Lancelot, you did not impress anyone. I feel that the subject of fighting coupled with embarrassing pubescent drama plays a large part in people avoiding training. They have no idea that the circle of embarrassing stories has nothing to do with jiu jitsu.
The reality is that we are studying something that is infinitely complex. We aren’t letting our emotions get the better of us, because it’s entirely a technical matter. A little bit of healthy competition is a good motivator, and serves as a good measuring stick for our own individual progress. We’re doing this for fun, and yes… we all have to go to work tomorrow. That’s why this is reasonably safe. We understand how to balance control with effectiveness. Once you get through the haze of simple ideas and raw emotion, clear positions and precise details start to emerge. It gets complicated, and we need to be patient about how long it takes. I like to speed things up as much as I can. You can Improve Your Bjj Using Paper
In conclusion, be patient and aware when talking with your friends about training. Try to understand where they are in their comprehension of what we do. Some people can never get over their existing sense of anxitey that comes with grappling. Remember that people have traumatic experiences they don’t share that involve grappling as well. These memories and ideas don’t go away, they develop into part of a larger story. For those who enjoy learning, problem solving, and bettering themselves, Bjj can be the perfect activity.