I can remember the moment I fell in love with Brazilian jiu jitsu vividly. It was February 2009… hanging out with my cousin Mike, watching Demian Maia vs. Chael Sonnen on UFC 95… round one…
I’d been a fan of Pride FC since the late-nineties and had fallen in love with the UFC shortly thereafter when my good friend and fellow fight fan had turned me onto now MMA legend Matt Hughes as a guy to watch.
Maia had Chael pinned up against the fence, when he switched gears…
I remember thinking, “Damn, man… no one can stop this guy’s jiu jitsu, hey?”
“…Hey, you know how he lands in mount like that? Do you think he did that on purpose, or just took advantage of an opportunity?”
“I think so, dude.” my cousin replied.
“You think he did it purposefully?”
I knew jiu jitsu was potent, I just didn’t know it was that potent. Somehow seeing Maia throwing someone into a mounted triangle made it all click. 👋 Tap, tap!
Finish after finish, GIF after GIF, I watched him finish fighter after fighter. Big, scary, legit tough guys that I knew were bad to the goddamn bone.
Joining a jiu jitsu school: Don’t make the same mistakes I did.
It took me 15 years to (finally) join a jiu jitsu school.
When you’re reading about joining a jiu jitsu gym, you see a few common bjj tropes:
- “Be prepared to get your ass kicked for the first 6 months. It’s not fun.”
- “You’re going to have to check your ego at the door… men often struggle with this”
- “95% of people never make it to blue belt”
- “Your first class, you will be punished. You will hurt. You will tap.”
- “Paying to get beat up, twisted, broken, choked, and dominated is not for everyone.”
On and on the fearmongering goes. It’s not that they’re trying to scare you, it’s that… well… 95% of people never make it to blue belt… so they’re trying to prepare you for what’s to come.
Because of this, I dipped my toes into gyms from time to time.
- There was a guy at kickboxing who’d stay after class and teach bits and pieces, but this was a group of guys in a garage, not a real bjj gym, so it fizzled…
- When I moved to the big city, I made calls to a nearby gym, got all the info, but never built up the courage to to drop in…
- Then when I was living in South America, I dropped in on a class there…
- I moved back home (Canada 🇨🇦), and was intending to join there, but got forced to move before I could…
- When I got to my new home, I made more calls, got the same info again, but never built up the courage to to drop in…
- Eventually I moved close enough to a gym that I decided I had to join a gym… At this point a lot of my friends and family were telling me I had to join just so I’d shut up about jiu jitsu at home… (touché). I did a trial class, enjoyed it, but convinced myself not to go back for three more years…
If I wanted to join a BJJ gym so bad, why didn’t I?
Looking back on it, it’s obvious why. I kept hearing how badly I’d be smashed in my first class, and that I’d need to be a special type of animal to survive in BJJ because it’s not for the feint of heart.
What scared me, was that all the groups I’d been in had been a friendly group of guys who liked to hang out and laugh together. No one was punishing me mercilessly, and it was always a welcoming and fun experience.
Did I get smashed? Of course! But that was to be expected – I’d read enough to know I would be smashed by everyone, including the tiny asian chick in the corner with a purple belt.
After all those first trial classes, I’d stepped in on, I walked away thinking, “Did I have fun? Sure… but no one really fucked me up… and I’m terrified for when they do… it takes a special type of animal to enjoy that I’m I’m worried I’m not going to be cut out for it…” and I’d be nervous to go back, as if they’d gone easy on me for the first class (they did) and that after that, all gloves were off; it was going to be vale tudo up in this bitch.
Eventually… After 3 years, it clicked…
Maybe I enjoyed it, and maybe I was that ‘special type’ of person people were talking about when they said it wasn’t for everyone.
I enjoyed it.
And so – three years after my first trial class with them – I asked to come back to the dojo for another trial class.
With 3 months worth of classes in cash, tucked away in my backpack, I walked back into the gym, telling myself that this time, if I have fun… and if the people seem cool… I’m going to just hand it over and let the universe take it from there.
… and so our journey begins! 🥋
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