by James Eke
After 35-plus years in the martial arts I’ll be the first to admit that some martial arts are good for some people while others are good for ‘others’. While there may be people out there who would say that this isn’t the case, they are probably either very young, very inexperienced or simply more interested in making a buck off of someone than concern for the well-being of others.
Brazilian Jiu-jitsu however, if practiced as it was meant to be, really is something that should be and can be for everyone. Not only that, but it is at its best when you have people of all different sizes, shapes and ages. Jiu-jitsu is about learning about yourself in relation to all of these different types of people. It is about learning about life.
While I may have started my training in the martial arts when I was about 12, my BJJ training didn’t really start until I was about 42 years old. Now you can believe what you want, but the body you have when you are in your 20s is not the same body you’ll have when you are in your 40s and it will be a whole different ball-of-wax when you are approaching your 50s. That said, this should never stop you from training and in fact, when it comes to BJJ, I have started to believe that a mature viewpoint not only makes the Jiu-jitsu journey more important but aspects of it will actually come easier to you as when you are past the ‘flashy’ ego-driven time of your youth. My own long-time martial arts instructor, Guro Dan Inosanto didn’t start Brazilian Jiu-jitsu until he was in his 60s — and now at 80 he is still training in it.
At its core, Jiu-jitsu as I have come to learn, is more about learning to deal with whatever it is that life or your opponent throws at you and responding in a calm, accepting and relaxed manner. Sure, on the outside it might look like something aggressive or dynamic but the seed inside of that dynamic sphere of movement and combat needs to be a non-aggressive, non-ego-driven understanding of the moment that you are currently in and possible outcomes.
Once you learn and get the fundamentals of Jiu-jitsu working for you, it doesn’t matter much what is thrown your way, you will be able to deal with it. What you find as a result is that this calm detachment — this ‘Jiu-jitsu Chill’ — is going to carry itself into your every day life.
As we say like a mantra on the mats at Eke Academy of Martial Arts when we are training, “if you are working harder than your opponent, you are already losing.” This way of thinking when the chips are down, unravelling the knot that has been presented to you is a very empowering thing and one of the amazing aspects of BJJ.
There are lots of different kinds of schools out there. All offer something. There may be schools that you’ll visit that are made of people who simply want to knock-heads like the goats in Beacon Hill’s Children’s Zoo but this is not what Jiu-jitsu is all about. As I say to my students, our goal is to have an inclusive school where you’ll see people of every age and body type training and having fun; where laughter and learning always is above the idea of tapping someone out, where longevity in training is paramount and respect happens both inside the Academy and out in the regular world.
Jiu-jitsu provides those who start down its path an incredible journey. Most people will never become World Champions — and there is nothing wrong with that — Jiu-jitsu is not about the sport aspect. It is about YOU. It is about DISCOVERY. It is about LOVE of an art and the people who are around you.
One thing is certain, if you give it the time, Jiu-jitsu will change your life. It will enhance your life. If you cross-train in other systems you’ll have a far greater appreciation and understanding of them. But perhaps most importantly, you’ll feel better about yourself, your life and all the amazing things and people that make it up.
Jiu-jitsu is a journey but it starts with a step. That step is something that will change you forever. Don’t you deserve that?