Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and My Fear of Commitment

Last week I had a rough time on the mat. We were learning a sweep, and I tend to have a lot of trouble with sweeps. As a recovering perfectionist, I get frustrated. And for a church girl, I swear a lot. Without even thinking, I had dropped a couple of F-bombs when I couldn't get that sweep. In the gentlest way possible, my training partner informed me that swearing on the mats is a big no-no. 

This was an important moment for me because I was gripped by a realization: it was the exact moment I realized that jiu jitsu can no longer just be something that I do, separate from the rest of my life; it has to penetrate down to a deeper layer of how I choose to be in the world. It is the precise moment that jiu jitsu no longer remains separate from the everyday, coffee shop-dwelling, Jimi Hendrix-loving, speed limit-disobeying, church board member, swearing, me. BJJ can no longer just be a "thing" that I do. I truly believe that how you do anything is how you do everything, so if I have to stop swearing during BJJ, then I have to stop swearing, period. If I decide to change myself for jiu jitsu, it's no longer just a fling. Jiu jitsu is asking me to make a real, adult commitment. 

Yoga was more subtle. Yoga and I have been developing a relationship for a couple of years. Yoga doesn't demand from me. Yoga is very, very permissive, and allows me to do what I need to do in the moment. Yoga makes me feel calm and comfortable with myself. Yoga never judges me. 

And then I met jiu jitsu. 

Yoga makes me a better person, but not in the abrupt, demanding way that jiu jitsu does. 

Jiu jitsu caught my eye, and we flirted for a while. It started out pretty fun, and I hadn't done anything like it before. Jiu jitsu didn't require much of me for the first few months, except to show up and enjoy myself. The first few months of any relationship are always the most exciting, aren't they? 

And then, last week, things got real. By asking me to change part of how I am in the world, jiu jitsu is asking me to take it seriously and make a sacrifice; a real commitment. Am I willing to intentionally work on changing an aspect of myself so that I can continue my jiu jitsu practice? Do I really want to do this? Is it worth it? Do I see a future with me and jiu jitsu? 

I've never really been overly comfortable with commitment. I place a huge premium on freedom. Even signing the six month contract at my current gym gave me heart palpitations. What if something better comes along? What if things aren't what they seem? What if I stop being happy in this relationship down the road? What if it's not what I think it is? 

I don't know that ceasing to swear will necessarily make me a better person, but I think any kind of personal change, whether good or bad, teaches us something. I don't have enough experience with BJJ to be able to know if it's actually something that I should accept as a legitimate moralizing force in my life against which to base any kind of self-improvement. I takes a whole lot of faith to give permission to an entity outside of yourself to have some kind of authority over your life. I essentially have to just trust those around me who say that it is worth it. 

So what is faith? I submit to you that faith is the decision to step out even when we don't know what is going to happen, but to know that whatever happens we can handle it. That even if it turns out to be a horrible relationship, a horrible mistake, I can still become a better person because of it, and grow. So, what if putting effort into not swearing for the sake of jiu jitsu somehow turns out to be a mistake? Well, maybe I will have honed my skills of patience, creativity, and compassion in the process. That sounds worth it to me. 

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
— Viktor Frankl

I stated that I fear commitment because I believe freedom is so important. But what if there is freedom in committing to a certain path? In the moment that I get frustrated in not pulling off a sweep, what if, instead of having the reflex response to swear, I discover the freedom to choose between swearing, or making a different decision? Having dominion over your impulses, your choices - that sounds more freeing to me than being "allowed" to swear on the mat. 

I'm taking the plunge and committing to this journey, even if it means I can no longer swear. I'm always down for an adventure. I have no words of wisdom with which to finish off this post, because I don't know where this path goes. I'm just going to remain open to the possibilities in front of me, and see what happens when I commit to a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practice that I allow to change me. I can only hope it's for the better, and judging from the experienced BJJ practitioners whom I have been blessed to get to know, I am certain that it will be worth it.


Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
— Viktor Frankl

what do you think? What have you learned along the way?

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