Saturday, November 23, 2013

21 Life Improvements from BJJ: 18-A Look Into a Future

The world can be saddening when you look at it. I don't mean death or famine or disease...those things bring about sadness, but their origins are, for the most part, natural. I got a real, but still somewhat detached reminder of this from my best friend who saw a man yesterday, shot and scared, in his last moments of life.

"Gosh. We really live on a clock. And sadly humans are the ones often stopping that clock for other humans" she tweeted.

Everything from war to racism to transphobia to verbal abuse, I genuinely believe, root themselves in stripping individuals, people, groups and cultures of their inherent, and easily apparent humanity. We all have a lot of words and ways to relate it, but the aggressors, at the end of the day lack empathy.

Empathy...true empathy...not just feeling bad when you see a starving child or sharing a post about the wrongs of racism, is a layered thing. It means you not only see the feelings of not only experience the feelings of others...but that you then value those feelings. It terrifies me sometimes to see how long that road is for so many people and often nudges me deeper toward my natural cynicism.

I see jiu jitsu though. I see it force people to feel the humanity in others, even if only briefly, even if only in an effort to avoid tapping out, and it nudges me back. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

21 Life Improvements from BJJ: 17-Helping my Father Age

A stoic and broad shouldered 6'5" (197 cm), you wouldn't expect that my father is more emotionally expressive than your average Southern American Black man. Sensitive though he may be, his feelings are largely filtered through the lens of sports. He, like most of his brothers and some nephews, was an athlete. At most my family boasts a CBA player but athletics are a big deal on that many of the lessons he taught me, were related through the language of sports (even if I wasn't the one playing...because I SO didn't take well to athletics).

My father is also an aging athlete. He's struggled with this since his 40s. Where he was once nimble and powerful, he now finds his body slow and less responsive. He still looks back fondly on his days on the basketball courts in high school and college. While he had never said it, I began to see how he missed the strength and agility of his old, young body.

He expressed that to me outright once I started training BJJ. In my hydration issues, tight hamstrings and exhaustion, he saw his memories. He saw himself. After a few rounds of tips on breathing, mental focus and not going soft on people, he finally told me of the pain high-performing athletes go through as they age--how they wish for glimpses of their days of glory--how he watches his old teammates delude themselves about their current abilities.

Jiu jitsu was incredibly hard for me at first. I am coordinated, but I don't move very well. Ginastica has helped recently, but before I got over the fear that GinasticaInstructor's class inspired in me, I looked to Scott Sonnon for help. In Mr. Sonnon's collection of movement development material, I found a simple DVD aimed toward maintaining mobility as you age. I gave it to my father one Christmas.

Six weeks later, he came to me, eyes welled up with tears, and said "You never...have to get me another gift again." I noticed the hitch in his gait, the one that chiropractors and podiatrists were unable to treat, was greatly reduced. He glowed with energy as he learned that he could recover just a bit of his lost self. He started telling his friends.

To this day he boasts of the woman at his church who no longer uses a cane because of what he showed her, and another woman, who went from a sedentary lifestyle, to jogging every day because of his motivation. In taming some of his fears of aging, my father has become a missionary of movement, and I have jiu jitsu to thank.