by James Eke
People train in the martial arts for a myriad of reasons.
Some want to get in better shape. Some want to make friends. Some want to learn to defend themselves. Some just think it is cool.
In the end, the martial arts will give you exactly what you are looking for but if you stick with it long enough you will find out that it has given you a whole lot more than just that.
For me, my martial arts journey started when I was a child — you can read my book Warrior’s Way if you want to find out more about this — suffice it to say I have been doing the martial arts for pretty much my whole life, minus a few years where I more interested in playing on the floor with toys and learning how to walk.
At 47, I have been involved with more systems than I can sometimes remember. Some I have tried out and left behind, others I studied for years and moved to the next progression, and some I have sticked to for longer than some of my students have been alive.
The one constant has been just how blessed I have been with the level of instruction that I have somehow managed to get.
I’d read about Brazilian Jiu-jitsu for years and having started my serious study of martial arts as a child in Judo for close to a decade was very interested. Unfortunately, in Canada we lag behind the US in terms of quality BJJ given that it only really showed up in the US in a big way in the 1980s and didn’t really start to spread until the 90s. Here in Canada it wasn’t until the early years of the 2000s when we started to see people with brown or black belts.
As happens in life, an interest in looking into something new when you are already busy with what you already do plus being a Dad and having a job make it difficult when you’d have to often travel elsewhere to find something legit.
But like I said, I’ve been very blessed.
When I was 42, I had the crazy good fortune to try BJJ for the first time with one of the few people you could actually call a legend of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Prof Jean Jacques Machado. I was training at the Inosanto Academy in Los Angeles with my long-time teacher, Guro Dan Inosanto (who is a BJJ Black Belt under Prof Machado) and decided I was crazy if I didn’t take part in a camp being held there.
If you haven’t trained with someone at the level of Prof Machado or Guro Inosanto then you don’t really understand the difference between what is real and what is fake. There is a big difference between making a peanut butter sandwich yourself or getting a world-famous chef to make you a sandwich — one will fill the hole and the other will change the way you think about a sandwich. That is exactly what happened to me within the first few minutes of sharing the mats with Prof Machado. He changed the way I viewed…everything.
As I say to my students, the best way I can describe it is to say that training in real Brazilian Jiu-jitsu as taught by the likes of Prof Machado opened a door in my body and my mind so that I now understand not only BJJ but also have deeper core understanding of all the other martial arts that I practice and teach at the Eke Academy.
I still can’t believe I tried BJJ the first time with a legend. He was also the first person I ever rolled with in BJJ…and consequently the first BJJ Black Belt I got to roll with and to be honest, kind of left a ‘high water mark’ that is pretty tough to beat when it comes to what is BJJ.
For the past five years since then I have trained with Prof Machado as often as I can, as well as with his students Prof Jay Zeballos (who is the mentor and guiding light of our BJJ program at EAMA) and Prof Gary Padilla who runs the BJJ program at the Inosanto Academy. The Brazilian Jiu-jitsu that I have grown to love amplifies everything else I do and has become an integral part of who I am today.
Not many people at 47 after a lifetime of perfecting other martial arts would say that they are starting a long road to dedicating to another system but for me it is the obvious next step. In a lot of ways, after starting in Judo, now, as a mature adult it is like coming home to be back on the ground, rolling around and having a blast doing it.
Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is a huge world these days. There is a self-defence aspect to it, a competitive sport aspect and then there is something more — a core system that is about learning about you in a chilled out, tactile way that simply makes sense.
If you have the proper instruction, it is more like learning some integrated Zen-yoga-functional-mobility-martial-art that is not only fun but leaves you wanting more.
While there are lots of young people out there who want to explore the more aggressive and competitive aspects to it, BJJ also has more than enough room for those who want a martial art that allows them to train hard, learn to let go, learn skills, and in the end amplify their lives in a way that makes you see what a martial ‘art’ really is compared to a ‘sport’.
Brazilian Jiu-jitsu as I’ve been learning from a truly humbling lineage is something that will not only change your life but will be an art that you can practice for the rest of your life.
Five years in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu flies by. I imagine 10 years will be the same. It is amazing the depth that you will learn and the things that you will gain in training in it. Without a doubt, BJJ is one of the most beautiful martial arts that I have had the great fortune to have trained in and I know without a doubt that I will be involved with learning more of this amazing system for the rest of my life.
If you have been thinking about trying BJJ out. Do it. You won’t get beat up. You won’t leave wishing you hadn’t done it. You won’t be disappointed. What you will do is fall in love with this incredible martial art that we here in Victoria, BC are so lucky to have thanks to the likes of Prof Jay Zeballos and of course Prof Jean Jacques Machado.
I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and I feel blessed to be along for the ride. Wouldn’t you like to come?