Returning to BJJ

BJJ is what I've spent the most recreational time investing in and thereby paying returns to myself. Climbing might be a close second, but a lifetime ago and one could argue that you can take the fighter out of the cage, but never the cage out of the fighter.

Returning to BJJ
The bravest thing you may ever do is start again.

 Originally Published 5/31/19

Once Upon a Time...

... in 2010 I started training Brazilian Jiu Jitus and MMA.  Whilst I started with the pursuit of competing in MMA (which I did), I quickly fell in love with BJJ (and competed there also – as well as in boxing).  To make a long story short, I found myself in a life of dramatic change.  I had moved to a new sate (in 2012) for graduate school and had no known family or friends in the area – until I found a new niche in rock climbing.

My last logged training session of that era was 9/25/13.  Grossly glossing over the huge dividends climbing has paid to my life (friendships, adventures, and hardships alike), I had been training jiujitsu for less than three years and was "off" for almost 6 years.  That last 2013 training year was quite spotty at best due to finances and no shortage of drama on the local scene.

Don't Call it a Comeback...

...I've been here for years.  The rest of your life starts today.  In January of 2019 I donned a Gi and rolled (pun intended) into a new academy.  Pictured above, I posted it to Instagram with the caption that the bravest thing you may ever do is start again.  

Starting in the first place takes courage, though there's nothing to compare yourself to except your own expectations.  Those expectations only grow when you stop training for twice as long as you were in the first place.

Let me rewind for a minute though.  In December of 2018 I did some serious review of what I wanted to accomplish in life and what I wanted my life to look like 5, 10, 15 years down the road.  Simply put, I didn't want to make any more excuses... I wanted to get back into BJJ.  The rocks would, as they have for a millennia, always be there.

The process started with getting my weight in check.  While I had been on the paleo scene for quite a while, this was my first foray into keto(genic territory) and when I kicked off my interest in "bio hacking" – or really just doing my own homework and quantifying my own health.

Those expectations I mentioned... I humbled myself and resigned to YouTube and watching videos of literally things I teach to Day 1 White Belts (now).  Yes, there were also injuries.  "Body hardening" is a real thing.  My fingers and grips were tough as nails from climbing.  The rest of my body, not so much.  As with my weight, I wasn't "out of shape" per se, but combat sports require something much more of you.

I was also fortunate to have a co-worker who had trained in a variety of martial arts and a roommate (at the time) willing to participate in some Sunday shenanigans to help he knock the rust off – and there was a lot of it!

Back to the Future:

So it went, I found myself at an existential ultimatum.  At the root of it though, my climbing gear wasn't going to wear out just sitting there and the mountains sure as hell weren't going anywhere.  I had developed a new (again, at that time) passion and skill for dog training, but I could do that any time.

It was time to seize the day and sign up with a new BJJ academy.  Climbing, competitive dog training, and combat sports are all beautiful artistic endeavors in their own right.  But, at the end of the day, I'm not a spindly iron spider "cut from the cloth" for climbing.  I'm more of the wolverine type you'd expect to be wrestling bears rather than scaling walls.

Of the new academy, it was 7 a.m. in Atlanta and still dark outside when I met Ranieri Paiva – a mountain of a  man and 3rd degree black belt at the time.  There was a gaping hole in the wall where someone had tumbled (or been thrown) through the drywall.  As I chugged my last bit of coffee, R.P. queued the speaker and blasted Master of Puppets.  I knew I had found a home.

All Road Lead to Rome:

As it turns out, some of my (now closes fiends) who I had trained with in the 2010's era also parted ways from the old academy.  Interestingly enough (as I don't believe in coincidences), Dave and Kyle had opened an academy under R.P. and both received their black belts from him as well.  

I still joke with them that I've got a lot of catching up to do and need to keep my @$$ in gear!  On a serious note, I (have to?) tell myself that the time away from the mat was just that – time off, though certainly not time wasted.

Isn't This a Training Post?

Forgive me, just like my father and his father before him, we're a family of storytellers.  So, let me hold back and just throw up a few bullet points:

  • 2010: started training
  • 2013: last documented training session before becoming a mountain hippie
  • 2019: started training again at new academy
  • 2020, February: earned purple belt
  • 2021, July: earned brown belt

100 Days of Training:

I don't think there's a secret to the above process other than that you have to put in the hours (work).  There isn't shortcut or time frame to that, it just has to get done – something I'll have a later post on.

One thing that I did find helpful, long before the "new normal" of lockdowns and pandemics, was that I viciously searched YouTube for solo-drills to practice at home since I was driving an hour to the gym 3-4 days / week.

I still preach this message to white belts today.  Pavel and Dan John called it "greasing the groove."  If I wasn't at the gym, I'd do at least 20-30 minutes of solo drills right there in the living room.  In part, I needed this to wake my body back up into grappling mode.  The other benefit was that my brain proverbially shut off at some point and my body / brain were always in grappling mode.

For 100 days I did some sort of grappling movement / training every day.  This was on top of (gradually decreasing) climbing training and dog sport activities.  However, you get the idea.  Instead of another cat video, look for something useful.  Then stop planning and do.

So, the punchline of this article isn't to toot my own horn.  It's to advocate for doing the damn thing!  As Dan Gable said, "If it's important, do it every day."  Oss.

Subscribe to savage/zen

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.