It takes a very specific brand of insanity to consistently show up at a place where you know multiple people are going to try to choke you out. It takes that same type of insanity to keep coming back, day after day and week after week, knowing that you’re going to be doing intense physical exercise in a thick outfit while gradually becoming a walking DNA sample for a whole bunch of sweaty, hairy athletes.
To someone on the outside, jiu-jitsu people probably don’t make a lot of sense. Honestly, even when you’re in the middle of a roll, it might’ve occurred to you once (or a few times) that normal people don’t do this stuff. It’s not “quirky” to casually pluck a single curly leg hair off your tongue while the person it came from tries to break your arm — it’s weird. But for jiu-jitsu people, it’s not even worth chatting about at work the next day.
Most rational human beings don’t try to get hooks in while spooning with their significant other, and they don’t instinctively shrimp out of bed in the morning. In fact, for most people, that sentence probably made zero sense. Most people aren’t going to subtly try to get underhooks when they hug you, and they certainly don’t try to strangle their best friends with their own clothes.
Obviously, jiu-jitsu people aren’t better or worse than “normal” people. We’re just… different. To say we were “messed up” wouldn’t be accurate, but “crazy”? Probably. Definitely at least a little. It’s not a bad thing, though. Jiu-jitsu people simply have a different way of looking at things than other people do. We view pain and exhaustion as tools to help us get stronger rather than excuses to quit. For us, grappling with people twice our size isn’t a punishment, but a welcome challenge. We put ourselves in situations that could potentially hospitalize or even cripple us specifically because we trust the people on the other end of our limbs to let go when we tell them to.
A trust fall is nothing compared to a trust heelhook.
Of course, the utter ridiculousness of what we do usually isn’t apparent to us. This, all of it, is just life. While most people couldn’t imagine living with all this stuff on a daily basis, lots of us are at a point in our jiu-jitsu journeys where we can’t even fathom a life without it. Maybe it’s because where other people see chaos and pain, we see peace and happiness.
For many of us, jiu-jitsu is often the only sense of happiness and normalcy we get. We carry the weight of work, family and relationship issues, financial woes, and everything else on our shoulders all day. Then we step onto the mats and someone tries to rip those same shoulders clean out of their sockets, and miraculously — even if just for a couple of hours — all those problems disappear.
Jiu-jitsu people know that there’s something positively therapeutic about the time we spend at the gym. It’s strange how something as thick and heavy as a gi can make us feel so much lighter, or how something as tight as a rashguard can make us feel liberated. Even on the days we end up limping out of there, our minds and hearts somehow feel like they’ve been healed, at least for the time being.
It’s not always easy. In fact, it rarely is. But that’s what makes it so great. We learn to deal with extreme physical and mental discomfort. We learn that a single instance of defeat isn’t enough to keep us down. We learn that the thing that knocks us down (or nearly breaks our arm) one day might be the key to our success the next day. We learn that in order to turn our trials into triumphs, we need to be the ones who effect change rather than covering our eyes and hoping that it happens on its own.
And because of all this, we learn to cope.
The truth is that jiu-jitsu people are crazy. Every single one of us. But the time we spend training is what keeps us from losing it completely in a world that is so much crazier. What others might see as a violent hobby is our shield against all the true insanity occurring outside the gym’s walls every single day. It’s a unique form of therapy (and not always the only kind we need), but it’s what helps us stay the good kind of crazy.