Welcome to the Post Roll Ice Pack (PRIP), just a word of warning you're probably not prepared to handle the deep philosophical takes and barrel fire of white belt truths that you never knew your post roll nights were missing. This column is written by a REAL white belt. Its designed to be read as you apply ice to your BJJ-maimed limbs, while at the same time insisting everything is fine because you're already thinking about the next training day.
Victor Frankl wrote, “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.”
My stimulus: a break-up
My response: fight
Alright, let’s flashback to February 2017 and the reason why I started training Jiu-Jitsu. Here I am, 23 year old Mitch, fresh out of school, just promoted in the emergency department in the city I grew up in, oh and newly single being few months removed from an extremely long-term toxic relationship.
Life was good! I felt like I was absolutely killing it at my job, I was back home with my friends and family. They loved having me back around and I loved being back, however I had this underlying feeling of mild dissatisfaction with the lifestyle choices that I was making and I knew more changes had to be made.
I was likely asking myself “What should I do next? Is this really all there is to this whole post grad thing? How can I evolve to be a better human being?”
So, I did what any logical 23 year-old would do and called my best friend James to get a beer and talk about it. We were watching Nick and Nate Diaz highlights at the bar and James turns over to me and says, “These guys fight like it’s their therapy…” Then it all clicked. I would drop-in at Team Randori the next day and get my first dose of the reality of competitive combat sports.
“As humans, we are designed to yearn, and it happens throughout our lifetime. Evolution rewards us: When we follow our yearnings, we get a flood of feel-good neurochemicals in our system. In any given moment, we might have one of five primary emotions: fear, hurt, anger, sadness or joy. Our emotions are directly connected to our yearnings. The more in tune we are with how we feel, the more able we are to express our feelings and fulfill our yearnings.” writes Judith and Bob Wright from their book The Heart of The Fight.
The first few weeks of training would end up being the some of the most revitalizing weeks of my young adult life as I was rag-dolled into oblivion by everyone on the competition team.
Although I was getting beat up, arm-locked, baseball-bat choked etc. with every tap I felt a little piece of my ego drift away into space, with every timer beep at the start of each roll, a piece of that feeling of discontent would flee my mind.
I finally felt present, finally in the moment. This is what I was yearning for.
Just as any functional human being should be able to do, I learned to adapt to the environment on the mats, and I adapted fast because I gave myself no choice. I made the decision to compete at the next tournament with my new team which would be at the IBJJF New York Spring Open. I would have 7 weeks to learn as much Jiu-Jitsu as I possibly could to formulate some kind of game plan and take on the biggest guys at the Adult Ultra-Heavyweight Division.
What happened that weekend in April 2017 would end up being one of the most valuable experiences in my entire life. Saturday, I would watch my teammates and my coach fight their way to the the podium and gold. Sunday was my turn. I would submit to a kimura and a cross-collar choke, but still take home a bronze medal in my first BJJ tournament at white-belt with my older brother and cousin watching me in the stands.
On the ride home from New York. I realized that it wasn’t my performance on the mats that won me the medal. I won the medal because I made the decision to alter my lifestyle for the better, to show up to every class and learn, to be diligent while in class, and finally to stand up in the face of fear and move forward.
How many times have you wanted to learn something new or share how you feel, but decided it wasn’t worth it, or didn’t follow through? Every time you decide it’s not worth it, you are on some level saying you aren’t worth it.
To grow and change our perspective of ourselves should be a constant pursuit. I’m the happiest I have ever been in my life now that I started training and competing. I find that it helps me find clarity. It is as if rolling itself creates the headspace in which I can find and do what matters most to me outside the gym, bringing more joy in day-to-day life.
The best of Nick and Nate Diaz https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Z4L2mS3ClU&t=491s&list=LLT0IrkA-NAAxy19oU4HinNQ&index=6 The Heart of the Fight, Book https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Fight-Couples-Fifteen-Common/dp/1626252572