Stumbling onto it.
I will always remember the line in the movie “the Matrix” where Neo is about to start his combat training. Keanu Reeves is laying there on that uncomfortable looking chair and he says “Jiujitsu? I am going to learn jiujitsu?” The operator doesn't say anything he just winks at him and begins the download. That scene started me on a path. On a path that I am still traveling today.
Lets start with the background of why I was watching “the Matrix.” I was about 17 years old. I had just broken up with my high school sweetheart. She was this crazy bohemian girl which is something I have always been into. (she eventually got dreads) I had a few girlfriends during my high school years but she was the major one. She was the one I took to prom, snow dance, all those memories were with her. Plus she was a hot blonde and I made the mistake of drawing confidence from having a hot blonde girlfriend. I know, rookie mistake, I know. But, I was really down about it. I was moping around the house and my dad noticed. I told him that I had broken up with the girl I took to prom and he looked me in the eye and gave me advice I will never forget. He said “Well, what are you sad for? The only difference from yesterday is that now you can date whoever you want. I didn't really like her anyway. You acted femme when you were around her. You don’t even stand up straight anymore.” So to summarize my situation, my high school flame had just broke up with me and my dad had just called me a pansy. I decided that was a good time to retire to my room and contemplate my next move.
That night I watched “the matrix” I was inspired by the story of this unathletic, pale looking guy who wears black all the time. He wakes up one day to find out that his entire life is a lie, he learns jiujitsu, then goes on to save his mentor, the entire world and get the girl in the end. I decided I needed to do something similar.
At that time in my life I worked as a life guard at the local YMCA. Everyday I would show up to my job at around then sleep till about 9. Flirt with whatever girls happened to come to the pool that day. For a teenage guy it was a dream job. That day as I was leaving the ymca I saw a sign that would change my life. It read “Japanese jiujitsu.” I stopped in my tracks as though the universe itself was calling to me. I stopped, looked at the sign and was so moved that I uttered out loud the word “yes.” I saw the time, and knew I would be there.
That I walked onto the grappling mats for the first time. I saw a few other guys there wearing what I thought looked like thick, bleached white pajamas. I later learned that this is properly called a kimono or “gi.” The class began and I was very quickly disappointed by the lack of karate chops or kicks. I learned basic judo techniques of how to fall, break grips, twist an arm, and throw an opponent to the ground. It was cool….I guess. But it didn't seem like something I would want to stick with. About 45 minutes in the instructor announced it was time for “randori.” I had no idea what this term meant but I saw that people were picking new partners and sizing each other up. I asked one of the instructors what was happening and he said “it is basically wrestling sparring. Try to throw your partner or pin him.” I paired up with a 50 something year old grey belt who was much smaller than me. I noticed that he had bound his ankle in duct tape and I thought to myself “I hope I don’t hurt this guy.”
The round timer started and we latched on to each other. I didn't think I was leaning forward but he pushed me then pulled me with perfect timing, hitting a footsweep that made it look like I had jumped over myself just to fall flat on my back. I grabbed onto his leg from my back and he was happy to keep going. This cycle of getting thrown and then pinned repeated itself 3 times before the five minute round had passed. He patted me on the back and without saying a word moved on to another partner.
My next partner was a college kid slightly older than me. I looked at his white belt and felt my spirits rise. I was exhausted, but he looked tired too. I looked around the room and even the most in shape men didn't look fresh. We grappled for the next five minutes going to the ground a few times more as a result of us tripping over each other than one person getting a clean takedown. It was exhilarating. I didn't beat him but what mattered at the time was that he didn't beat me.
I was hooked. Right at that moment I became hooked on the infinite puzzle that is grappling. Jiu-jitsu is one of the best things that ever came into my life. I am a better person physically, mentally, and spiritually because of my time spent on the mats. There will be more to follow on this with my next entry.
By Rob Falk | Spartan Martial Arts
Feb 12, 2014