Every year, people make resolutions around the first of the year. They resolve to be better at their various hobbies or interests; they resolve to do better at work or at school, maybe to be better family members. New Years resolutions are almost part of the human experience. In jiu jitsu, people make all sorts of resolutions about their games, their training patterns, their competition performances etc… But how about as a community? I haven’t seen the jiu jitsu community resolve to improve itself…
I had an opportunity to chat a bit with well respected black belt Tom DeBlass. DeBlass, for anyone who doesn’t already know, is a world class competitor who has built several world class competitors, and is generally respected as a strong example for the jiu jitsu community. I asked Tom to share some of his thoughts on what the jiu jitsu community as a whole should do to improve itself.
“I think it’s important to remember that how we represent ourselves individually is often times a representation of Jiu-Jitsu as a whole. We need to understand that as big as we are as a community, we are still a new and growing martial art. We should remember that it’s our duty to introduce Jiu-Jitsu to the world in a way that welcomes everyone. I truly believe everyone can benefit from Jiu-Jitsu and we as a community need to keep educating the public in a positive way.”
Very often when negativity arises from jiu jitsu training, it is in the result of a “challenge”. Someone feels like they have been challenged and they feel the need to step up to the plate and show their challenger what’s what. This has historically been a way for the Gracie family (the progenitors of the art) to educate the world about BJJ. I was curious what Tom thought about this:
“I think it’s basically over. I think it generally used to be to prove that Jiu-Jitsu was the most effective martial art against others. I believe it’s proven that most times in most confrontations if we can use just one martial art, Jiu-Jitsu will be the most effective. I do believe and stand by the fact that instructors should be willing to prove what they teach if someone walks through their Academy door and challenges them. I am always willing to show what I teach is effective. However we must remember that Jiu-Jitsu is the “gentle art” so even if someone walked through my doors and challenged me my goal would be to render them helpless, but never to seriously injure them. I’d expect them to become a student after I made them a believer!”
Humility is a key element to being a positive influence on the world around oneself, and jiu jitsu is a great way for a person to learn humility in a positive way.
“I believe it’s inevitable that Jiu-Jitsu will teach everyone how to be more humble. Without humility it’s truly hard to stick with Jiu-Jitsu. I think simply showing up will force someone to adjust their attitude. Jiu-Jitsu forces individuals to find out who they truly are deep down, and sometimes it surprises people once they find out they aren’t exactly who they thought they were. Jiu-Jitsu has a good way of helping people to be humble fast.”
As far as some resolutions that we, as a community, should undertake, Tom DeBlass has a very simple goal for all of us to strive to reach.
“As a Jiu-jitsu community we need to continue to understand that it is not ‘one team vs. the other.’ It is the jiu jitsu community against the bars, the clubs, anything that can potentially pull people away from our martial art in different, possibly negative, directions. We must find ways to inspire people outside of our circle. And when I say our circle I mean the jiu jitsu community as a whole. Because when you look at the Jiu-Jitsu community compared to the world we are still very small. I have a big Academy but every night more people are driving past my Academy then there are on the mats. Even if I have a 50 person class, hundreds and hundreds are driving by. We need to continue to inspire the ones that know nothing about Jiu-Jitsu in order to bring them into our circle.”
I asked Tom what is perhaps one of the hardest questions of all: how do we inspire people to make their way into “our circle”
“Be kind. I’m 6 feet tall and 230 lbs, I don’t need to show the world how tough I am. Toughness is not going to bring people through my doors. Anyone can Google my name and find out how tough I am. Being welcoming to everyone is what will help people to walk through my doors. Make sure when you are wearing your Jiu-Jitsu shirts and Academy clothes you are presenting yourself in a way that leaves a positive impression on others. Volunteer in your community, stay out of trouble, curse less in your Facebook statuses and do more for people who need us. We represent our martial art, and everyone is always watching.”
So in 2016, let’s strive to be a kinder community. Let’s strive to help the new white belts that walk in the door even if they are not model citizens of the jiu jitsu community just yet. Lets all make 2016 a great year for jiu jitsu.