(Published February 25, 2022)
One of my students told me that our gym reminds him of Eagle Fang (Johnny Lawrence’s dojo in the Netflix show, Cobra Kai).
I didn’t get it right away. I love the show, but being likened to the antagonist of the original Karate Kid didn’t exactly sit right with me at first. I’d always identified more with Danny Larusso having lived next door to the neighborhood bully growing up.
It took some time, but after pondering it for a while, it actually started to make a lot of sense. You see Johnny Lawrence says that Karate is about being badass. It’s not a word I use very often, but it has a surprising amount in common with my own personal philosophy of Jiu-Jitsu and how a gym should be run.
Let’s take a look at the definition.
I’m not some eastern sage. I’m an American. But I think that’s okay. We’ve got our own brand of wisdom here in the U.S. with a kind of whiskey philosopher edge to it, and I’m okay with that.
And hey, here's a little something else to consider. Jiu-Jitsu may come from Japan by way of Brazil, but between all the Brazilians moving here to train and all of our home grown practitioners, more high level competitors live and train in the US than in any other country.
Unlike other martial arts, BJJ tends to keep the formalities to a minimum, preferring instead to focus on effectiveness. Due to the high emphasis on Randori (or sparring) as a training method, respect is earned as opposed to being owed due to some artificial social construct. If you’re looking to learn self defense skills, but don’t want to pay someone for the “privilege” of standing at attention while addressing them as Sensei, Sifu or some other fabricated title, BJJ is the martial art for you.
Jiu-Jitsu guys are usually pretty laid back. Probably because we're able to get all of our aggression out on the mats. We don’t go around looking to offend. But we don’t go around censoring ourselves for fear of backlash either. Because once you get used to someone trying to break your limbs and choke you unconscious, social pressure just seems a little less intimidating.
Jiu-Jitsu is a skill. Once you learn it, you’ll always have it with you. You can’t leave it at home. And it never runs out of ammo. You’re ready for trouble 24/7 should it find you.
BJJ is a meritocracy. You don’t get your blue belt until you’re skilled enough to beat white belts. You don’t get your purple until you can beat the blues. You get the idea. This emphasis on merit based promotion develops a level of skill that many folks don’t even realize is possible. And moving other human bodies around on a regular basis doesn’t hurt much in the strength department either.
There are many paths to badass-ness. Some people, feeling like they have something to prove, try to do it by acting like jerks. They find any excuse to puff up their chests and be mean or rude to those around them. More often than not, it’s done out of fear. Just superficial posturing with nothing to back it up. And I think most people see through that.
Pardon my French, but I believe that it’s possible to be badass without being an ass. I know it is. I see it on a regular basis. Because make no mistake, anyone who is good at Jiu-Jitsu and trains on a regular basis is by definition badass.
And somewhere deep down inside they know it, even if the word badass would never really occur to them. Because they’ve proven it to themselves and their fellow gym members. They’ve proven their strength, courage, and skill by going toe to toe with other human beings on the mat over and over again.
And this makes them the best kind of badass. Because folks who are capable without feeling the need to prove it, can be some of the most genuine, friendly, giving people you’ll ever meet. And I think that truly is badass!
The more I think about it, the more I realize just how well the word badass represents my philosophy of Jiu-Jitsu as a whole. In fact, I can’t find another word in the English language that does it any better. Believe me, I’ve tried.
I wanted to start up a kids program after all. And badass isn’t exactly the first word you think of when you’re looking to market a children’s activity to their parents!
Be that as it may. I’ve slowly come to realize how perfectly being badass encapsulates my philosophy of Jiu-Jitsu. I love the idea as a cornerstone of a gym. So good, bad or indifferent, there it is.
If you’re looking to make a change in your life… if this resonates with you on some level… If you’d like to hang with a group of like minded individuals who help build each other up every single day… then come on over to Big Mike’s BJJ.
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