Renzo Gracie once said, “There is more philosophy on Jiu Jitsu mats than in any college or university.”
I have had a lot of time recently to realize just how true this statement is. The past three months have taken not just a hobby, but a huge part of my life away from me. I realized that the last week has taken away something even more important from me. Connection. Not the connection we talk about when referring to the application of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu technique. However, the connection we all benefit from when we have the ability to come in contact with people of different backgrounds and experiences.
The cross section of people in a typical Jiu Jitsu class is an interesting dynamic. Young 20-something year old students side by side with students three times their age. A poor college student sharing their wealth of Jiu Jitsu knowledge with a multi-millionaire who can barely put their uniform on correctly. And, yes, white Jiu Jitsu practitioners side by side with black Jiu Jitsu practitioners. When the conversation is focused on a common goal, nothing else seems to matter except reaching that goal together. Instructors working with students, students working with instructors, and students working with other students.
Jiu Jitsu is one of the toughest things I have ever experienced in my life. I have experienced victory and defeat. I have made a tremendous amount of friends and unfortunately experienced the pain of losing some. Physically, Jiu Jitsu has sharpened my mind but taken a toll on my body. But, the easiest thing about Jiu Jitsu is that it gives us an avenue to connect and a common language to communicate with diverse groups of people and people that we would otherwise have nothing in common.
As a high school teacher, one of the best ways I connect with a student is by finding a common language that we both can “speak” and relate to. Without it, it does not matter what I want to teach or how much they want to learn. Is it difficult? Sometimes. Is it something I can immediately figure out? Hardly. Does it mean giving up a little bit of my desire to be “in charge”, and taking a few extra minutes to hear and not be heard? Absolutely. In the long run, is my relationship with the student better? Every single time. I did not learn this in my education classes at college. Jiu Jitsu taught me this.
At the risk of sounding as if I am trying to oversimplify some major issues we are facing in our country, I am going to leave with this. In most cases, the common language we are looking for is simply, understanding. Once you have that, conversations are a lot more productive.