I’ve been training for almost three years now. It was immediately apparent to me when I first began training that the group of people I had just started hanging around a few times a week (without really ever speaking too much) were not like normal folks. They were my first experience of a real BJJ family. The bond they clearly had ran far deeper than most groups of people one might typically encounter. The level of familiarity and kinship I witnessed among the oldest veterans on the team was really impressive to me, because not even my own family had ever shown each other that level of love and trust, save for a few wonderful individuals.
A couple of years later, I’m part of the crew. Even now, I’m constantly surprised by and impressed with my teammates. They repeatedly prove themselves to be trustworthy, dependable, caring people. They’ve helped me through a lot of personal issues, and lent out their bodies for physical labor. They’ve been there in ways not many others have, and most importantly, they’ve helped me become a continually-better version of myself.
These people are rare. As a practitioner of the “gentle art,” you get used to a certain level of attrition. There’s definitely a good amount of transience associated with the revolving door of newbies that come and go as if they were never even there. The badder-than-you gym rat, the pimply-faced kid, the overweight/undermotivated guy with unrealistic expectations, the bored suburbanite housewife trying something new….all faceless, nameless entities floating along the current of wherever they’re going and giving up on next. They’re entirely different beings than those that stick around.
Typically, the former are easy to spot. Most seasoned jiujiteiros can read a person pretty thoroughly within a single 5-minute round, even more-so than after a long conversation. It’s amazing what you can learn from a person when they’re being physically tested, especially in direct conflict with another human body. Often, major personality flaws begin to show when a person’s ego first gets a little dinged-up.
Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not judging those people that quickly phase themselves out. They haven’t yet found what truly speaks to them, and that’s incredibly unfortunate. Besides, we can’t really expect them to stick with something like BJJ, can we? They’re not like us. They’re the normal ones, really. We’re the weirdos that like wearing pajamas and strangling each other, or wearing far less and getting weirdly slippery and sweaty…in a strictly platonic way. We’re the ones pretending to kill or maim one another, but that’s what draws us together. Otherwise, many of us couldn’t be more different.
I train with firemen, police officers, hippies, and former addicts. My teammates are business owners, scientists, artists, lawyers, and doctors. They’re plumbers, electricians, students, and career athletes. We’re culturally very different, have differing views and ideals, but are also very much alike at our cores. We’re accepting, yet discerning. We understand the give-and-take needed to all be successful, and we’re all focused on (though sometimes individually distracted from) continual self-improvement. It’s a beautiful thing, from where I stand.
Not only are you trusting them, but you’re holding them accountable for their training and dedication to the art by constantly testing their strengths and exploiting their weaknesses. The bonds forged in those moments are like hardened steel. Surely they can be broken, just like anything else, but they endure far better than most when kept moving.
The members of your BJJ Family (assuming you’re at the right gym) are people that have your back without asking for much in return. You’ve already done an awful lot to help improve their lives, just like they improve yours. You’ll never find a more diverse, kind, gentle-hearted group of killers than on the Jiu-Jitsu mat.
The people grinding it out with you will always be the ones most likely to lend a hand off the mat when you need it. From moving furniture to life advice to helping you launch a business or letting you crash on a couch, your BJJ Family will take care of you, so long as they know you’re a dedicated member of the community. And what an amazing community it is. The level of acceptance you’re likely to encounter when traveling to a new town and going to a new gym is unparalleled.
It seems there’s a bit of a scientific explanation for how tight-knit a BJJ Family can be, as well. Get the full scoop here. Basically, as human beings, we have an essential human need to touch, and be touched, by other human beings. Direct human contact is a must for the human animal to be happy. It’s a little bizarre that we’re satisfying this base need to be close to another person while simultaneously simulating murdering one-another, but after all, life is all about balance, right? Talk about Yin and Yang!
As always, thanks for reading and being part of our BJJ Family! Leave a comment below, share this post, and like our pages!
UPDATE: If you’re just getting to this post, we’ve got a Part 2 all about finding your BJJ Family abroad, wherein a member of the A-Game team sets sails westward in search of adventure and prosperity! Be sure to give that one a read, and tell us what you think!