because I don’t mind if you don’t mind

Dear everyone who matters,

This LJ notwithstanding, I don’t talk a lot about myself and what drives me. I’ve always been the quiet type. And about jiu-jitsu, which I’ve been studying for seven and a half years – longer than I went to any single school or held any one job – I tend to say even less. I think this is the humility that discipline imposes on you. I never tell people, “I know jiu-jitsu” or “I teach jiu-jitsu” – I always say, “I’m studying jiu-jitsu.” And that’s what I consider myself: a perpetual student.

To make up for years of silence, though, some background: the martial arts fascinated me for years, as with most boys who grew up in the 80s. Brief flirtations with the karate club and the fencing club at BC didn’t really engage me. Then I happened to get a flyer from BC’s jiu-jitsu club and decided to get off my ass and do something. I took the shuttlebus from Greycliff to Newton Campus and sat in a quonset hut with about forty other underclassmen. Of those, three are still paying students: myself and two others.

I always had the expectation in my mind that I’d quit when I ran into something too frustrating to learn quickly. But I stuck it out through forward rolls, rear rolls, judo, breakfalls, shiho nage (don’t ask) and other things that, to this day, I still haven’t mastered. I always secretly feared that I’d quit when I first got a severe injury. But I’ve broken my nose and stress-fractured a couple different fingers in class, I end more classes sore than whole, and I still haven’t stopped. And I knew – deep down secretly knew – that I’d stop coming once it grew inconvenient. But there was a stretch of about nine months, my senior year in college – when I was applying for grad schools, writing a thesis and directing a play – that I would walk to class at least once a week, sometimes twice. Three miles when I couldn’t catch a bus. In the snow a couple of times.

I think I keep at it because jiu-jitsu’s the only time that I’m regularly challenged during the week. Think about it: how many times in a month – or in a year – do we deliberately throw ourselves into something that we don’t know we can do? Job interviews, asking strangers out, standing up to the occasional asshole: we’ll take rare trips outside our comfort zone but we don’t regularly live there.

Anyhow, you’ve all been very patient with me. You’ve understood when I have to duck out on Tuesdays and Thursdays for class, or when I limp home bruised and sweaty but still smiling. I think it’s time you got to see what I’ve given seven and a half years of my life to.

On the afternoon of Saturday, March 15th, two other students and I will be promoting to black belt. It would mean a lot to me if you could be there.

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