Friends with killers?

Body feels light, my vision narrowing, and then there is a tremendous pain and crushing in my neck, I struggle, but he is so strong, if I do not do something soon, I am finished! *one explosive move* I can breathe, and I am free. Buzzer goes and I say, “damn that was super tight, very very close there”, we slap, tap and thank each other. This marks the end of another five-minute round of simulated murder and maiming—Jiu Jitsu.

You may ask why anyone would repeatedly put themselves through this, not just in life, but multiple times in a day and then come back in a day or so for more. The answer is because it is beyond fun. Strange right? But those in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ or jiu-jitsu for short) community find what they are looking for in this martial art and sport, even if they are unaware of it.

I recently had a conversation with my wife that being an adult is lonely. As adults we have “friends”: childhood, neighbors, work, but if one is honest how much meaningful connection do they bring? Take childhood friends: we grow up and become these people with our lives and them with theirs, and when we meet-up we are more like siblings than friends, laughing about all our past shenanigans and debauchery; connected through a thread of history. We are different as adults, and this difference becomes more apparent when we are apart, you notice how flaky these people have become. Then there is work, perhaps you have made a friend or two, but do the connections and banter end a 5pm? Are they simply just a work thing?

Perhaps as adults we do not really need friends, but I do believe we need meaningful connections and an outlet to help us un-plug. Is that an oxymoron? And this is where jiu jitsu comes in. Jiu-jitsu is a sport that forces you into extremely close contact and positions with strangers, but these strangers become your meaningful—daily or weekly—connection in life, you build a great deal of trust with those in the community and whom you train with. Many of the other activities we—as adults—partake in are solitary, and as we become hyper-connected online, we become more disconnected in life. In jiu jitsu it is impossible to be solitary because you are always paired with someone, and in order to receive something out of the sport you have to give something, and not the obvious blood, sweat, and tears, but heart, honest self, and trust in others. There have been many times rolling with others where I ask them, or they me: “are you alright?” Each can sense the others’ energy and if that energy is dim—you know.

So where are the friends I have been getting towards? They are in the honest connection and exchanges we have, and quite often in the actual people we train with. Adults are scared, and this holds us back from meeting and talking to new people—making friends, but jiu jitsu forces connections and development of them upon you. As grown-up busy adults, we have lost our way to have simple honest fun with others, much like how kids in a playground run around and play games with other kids, no hesitation, just “Hey! Wanna play?”, “Sure!”, and away kids go.

Beyond the training and development of lethal skills that jiu jitsu provides, is nourishment for the adult soul.  We find an outlet where all of life's stressors are switched off (even if just for an hour or two): dynamic challenges and puzzles, fitness, and most importantly we find family and community, and this makes our lives a lot less lonely.

“Hey! Wanna roll?”

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