The difference between your Jiu-Jitsu family and your coworkers is that you got to choose your Jiu-Jitsu family while your coworkers are just strangers that you have to spend 8 to 10 hours with each day in the office. While you try to make the best of the situation, by making small talk around the water cooler or while half-heartily celebrating Bob from accounting’s birthday at Chili’s, you don’t get them and they don’t get you. At some point the topic of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu will arise from a conversation on an assault, hobbies for kids, or you just wanting to let your coworkers know you train and compete in BJJ. The response from your coworkers will range from complete apathy to a wide array of wild assumptions including the 5 listed below.
You are a Cage Fighter: Since the average person’s only knowledge of martial arts is from movies like Blood Sport and Warrior or the occasional UFC clip that makes it to the mainstream news, the guys and gals at the water cooler will assume you are moonlighting as a bad ass cage fighter when you mention you compete in BJJ tournaments. Sometimes, the fantasy and the reputation that comes along with the false assumptions provides a much better story than the reality of you getting choked out on a daily basis by a 13-year old girl at the 8 PM beginner’s class. So why bother correcting them?
You Must Be Violent: Why would you want to hurt another human being? You must be violent or angry? Nope. You just enjoy rolling around with other men, releasing stress, learning something new, working out, and occasionally testing yourself in live competition. You have no anger or ill will towards your training partners or people in general. That is why you hug them and wish them well after a round or match. However, the office gossip/cat lady has this impression that anybody who enjoys “fighting” is violent and angry.
You are Weird: Your straight-laced coworker that buttons his shirt to the very top, wears a tight necktie, and his pants up to his belly button, lectures mentions to you
“I don’t understand why you would do this to yourself. You could get seriously injured. What are you trying to prove by doing this?”
No, training and competing in BJJ is not the norm in a politically correct workplace or society where everybody is programmed to conform and be a drone. To the straight laced coworker with a tight necktie, pants up to his belly button and a steel rod shoved up his rear, popping anti-anxiety meds, eating McDonald’s for lunch everyday, and comforting himself in a BMW he can barely afford is totally fine and normal. Since most people have misconceptions about the art and its benefits, they would rather mock it than learn the benefits of it.
You do Tae Kwon Do or Something Like That: The average person doesn’t know the difference between any 3 syllable Asian based martial art. These are the same people that get upset that sushi isn’t served at a Thai restaurant. Since they can’t tell the difference between any martial arts or Asians in general, they will also wonder why you aren’t a black belt like their 12-year old daughter and have some false assumptions their 12-year old daughter could hang a round with you if push came to shove. While you try to explain what BJJ is to your ill-informed coworker, they will follow up with questions that include terms like “judo chop” and “how many boards can you break at once.”
You must be Really Great if you Compete: During my first BJJ class ever, the purple belt teaching the class mentioned using the technique he was demonstrating at Pans that year. Since I knew nothing about the sport at the time, I thought “wow, he must be good if he went to Pans” since most sports’ major tournaments only invite the elite to compete. Later, I realized anybody was able to compete at Pans as long as they had $125 to register and trained at an IBJJF affiliated academy. Most people assume you are world class or great at BJJ if you compete, but that is far from the case with belt and age divisions. Combine that myth with the fancy names of BJJ tournaments like “The Los Angeles International Open” or “The Great Midwestern Classic Invitational” and people will assume you are competing at major events, when in fact it is a small, local tournament held on a few old wrestling mats laid down in a musty high school gym.