“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”– Lao Tzu
At 24 years of age I was awakened to find myself at a wretched and disgusting place in my life. The previous four years I had been working in a soul crushing job because I lacked the willpower and motivation to go out and find something new that I actually enjoyed. I was your typical cubical dwelling rat in the race of life. I hated my life so much because I didn’t have any real hobbies outside of work other than drinking myself stupid while playing Xbox games. I was eating nothing but greasy fast food like McDonald’s burgers and fries. I’ve never worked out my entire adult life. At my fattest I was 265 pounds and I was kind of amused, yet at the same time depressed that I weighed the maximum allowable weigh-in weight for the heaviest division in the UFC.
The UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) has always held a special place in my heart since I was a kid. My dad rented the old VHS tapes of events and we would spend entire weekends watching grown men beat the absolute shit out of each other. The beginning years of the UFC were basically an Americanized version of Brazilian Vale Tudo (anything goes) fights, aired on pay-per-view for the world to enjoy. There were no weight limits, minimal rules, and the best martial artists across the globe were invited to fight each other in a single-night, eight-man tournament for a prize of $50,000 to see who had the most dominant and effective fighting style in the world. This was orchestrated and created by the now famous Gracie clan, the creators of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. They wanted to show the world that they believed they were the most effective martial arts system. To accomplish this goal they had the smallest member of their family, Royce Gracie, fight in the tournament. They wanted to show that you didn’t have to be some muscled up tough guy to be effective with the techniques they taught. Royce defeated all of his opponents that evening controlling them with BJJ and finishing two of the three with a Rear Naked Choke in less than two minutes. This was a showcase for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu the world over. People were stunned that such a small man was able to control and dominate opponents much larger than him.
Many years had passed since I had watched those old VHS tapes of the early UFC fights when I walked into a bar at the age of 21. On all of the television sets they were playing a live PPV broadcast of the same UFC. I was actually shocked that the organization still existed, remembering growing up reading about how so many states and governments were trying to ban the sport. I grabbed a beer, sat down with a friend, and was instantly taken in by the action. This modern day version of the UFC was FAR different from the VHS tapes I had watched as a child. No longer was it just random sized guys fighting against each other. There were weight classes, more standardized rules, and a referee that actually had the power to stop the fight. As the night went on and the beer kept flowing I found myself cheering with the crowd of people just watching these fights on television. From that night on I found myself a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) super fan. I read up on every single top 10 fighter in each division, I went through video archives on the Internet of old fights and absorbed every single second I could. Every weekend before a fight I would blow up Facebook inviting all of my friends to join me at a local bar to watch the fights with me. When I first met my friend Doctor Illusion he would buy the fights so we could save money on beer and food and just watch them at his house. They were some wonderful times.
Shortly after getting into watching MMA I discovered the comedian and UFC commentator Joe Rogan’s podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience. Joe offered an insight and more in-depth analysis into the world that I had become absolutely in love with. One of the things he talked about that really caught my interest was Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I knew of the martial art because of flashbacks of the first UFC tapes I had watched with Royce Gracie, as well as it being commentated on during modern MMA fights. In the modern fights the grappling was (what seemed at the time) the boring stuff that happened when the fighters hit the ground and tried to work for submissions, the kind of thing that usually got booed at live events. I was intrigued because it was a way to defend yourself and there was no getting punched in the face, something I was happy to hear. I looked up local BJJ gyms and was really wanting to check it out, but I told myself I didn’t have the time or the money because of my job’s scheduling. Excuses.
As detailed in previous posts on this blog, Doctor Illusion introduced me to mushrooms and they have had a profound effect on my life and the outlook thereof. They showed me the patterns of thinking I had been stuck in for years, truly “outside of the box” moments of clarity. This pattern was well worn in my brain like a path through the woods that had been traveled over and over and over again that prevented anything new from being grown upon it. After a few trips I realized I could do better, I could step off of this rotten path that was doing me nothing but causing pain and anguish. Albert Einstein is credited (but widely debated) as defining insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So I can say with certainty that mushrooms cured me of my insanity and brought me to reality. I hated the job I was at, so I started to shoot my resume to every tech job I could find and one company finally hired me. After I got out of that horrible job I told myself I was actually going to attempt the things I wanted to do like BJJ, so I e-mailed the owner and instructor of the local BJJ gym. I wrote him on a Monday afternoon and he told me, to my surprise, to show up the next day in a t-shirt and shorts. I say to my surprise because I had expected him to tell me to show up next week or maybe the following weekend. Subconsciously I knew there was a part of me deep down that would have allowed myself to back out and not go if the instructor hadn’t said to show up the next day. I would have over thought it, letting the fear of the unknown scare me out of just trying. I took a deep breath, replied to his message and told him I would be there. A 100% affirmative I would make it, no “maybe” or “might” in the reply. That was it, I was locking in with my words that I would have to hold myself accountable if I didn’t perform the task. Something I honestly had never really done for something that mattered before in my adult life. I had a goal to show up to this gym and try this martial art out.
I showed up to the gym the next day 30 minutes before class and sat outside in my car in absolute fear. I was terrified of what laid beyond the tinted windows to the school. A strange group of guys that I did not know, all practicing and learning something I had absolutely zero clue about other than the MMA fights I had watched on TV. Deep down inside of myself I heard a voice telling me “You can just put your car in gear and drive away. You don’t have to face the dragon and demons that are behind that door!” but I took a deep breath, stepped out of my car and walked into the gym with a pair of swimming shorts and a black t-shirt. It was a pair of swim shorts because I owned nothing but blue jeans due to being a fat fuck that was terrified of anyone in public seeing my skin. I chatted with the instructor for a few minutes and then was introduced to a few of the guys of the school. To my relief, everyone was friendlier than I could have imagined. They all shook my hand with a smile and said they were glad I had come to check them out. We started the warm up stretches which were basically yoga poses. I strained for a majority of them since I had not done any kind of physical activity for more than 6 years and was just not used to using my body in any real capacity. We were then shown a few techniques by the instructor and paired up with another student to practice the moves. I constantly apologized to my partner that I had no clue what I was doing and felt really ridiculous, but they assured me that it was totally normal. After the 45 minutes or so of drilling techniques the class was bowed out. PHEW! I made it to the end of the class without quitting and was pretty proud of myself. The instructor then turned on a timer on the wall, set it for 5 minutes and proclaims “pair up with your partner and let’s roll!”…what what? What’s this about? The guy I was drilling techniques with grabs me and tells me now we’re going to actually live spar. Oh boy. We both crouch down to our knees, the timer beeps and my partner plants me on my back and starts putting all of his weight onto my chest. I made some very loud noises and grunts as he moved for position that nobody else in the entire gym was making. I felt like my chest was going to just collapse from the weight being placed on it. My partner climbs on top of me and I try to push his weight off of me, so he wraps my arm up, fall back with it between his legs, then slowly lifts his hips onto my elbow and I tap out. Holy shit, that was fucking awesome. I knew that he had absolute control of my body and my arm could have snapped like a twig from the pressure. The round ended after a few more times of me making grunting noises and tapping out from either being arm locked or being choked. I was drenched in sweat, I could barely breathe, and to top it off I had a different guy standing in front of me asking me if I wanted to roll. “Yeah sure”. Beeep. “UUUNNNGGGH”
I knew 100% after that first day I wanted this in my life…so I kept coming back. I kept getting my ass kicked. I read on the internet all day at work about how to get better and the best advice I found from higher ranked guys was to keep showing up. There is no one technique or movement that will make your life easier than continually showing up. Remember to breathe, slow down, to not to hulk out and try to muscle guys who know what they are doing. There were a few times in the first couple of months where I was so exhausted from class that I could barely drive my car home…hell, once or twice I cried like a bitch because my body hurt so much. With that pain, that voice deep inside me would flare up and say “You could just stop showing up. You could end this pain and be way more comfortable just sitting at the house”…but I pushed through, I’d show up the next day and roll some more. After about 6 months some new guys would show up and I could just mop the floor with them. I would tap them out at will or have enough control to where they could only move where I wanted them to. Then the round would end, a blue or purple belt would slap hands with me and dominate the little bit of ego I was building back into the ground. Stay humble.
I’ve been training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for over two years now. I have made some of the closest friends I’ve ever had and truly felt apart of a tribe. Also In that time I made small changes to my diet such as cutting out soda and most fast food. I trained at least 4 days a week. I dropped from 265 pounds to 220 pounds.For the first time in my adult life when I ran into people I hadn’t seen in a long time I was complimented on how great I looked instead of the usual “holy shit man you’ve gotten fat!” like I had grown accustomed to after high school. My self-confidence has multiplied a countless number of times. I recently started an actual diet to lose more weight and have since lost another 10 pounds. Success breeds success. Around a year and a half into training I achieved the rank of blue belt. The day I received my promotion I had at least three guys come up to me and tell me they pegged me to quit after my first week and were proud I stuck it out. One slapped me on the back and laughed about how I was the guy that would squeal like a kid anytime pressure was placed on me my first month and to look at me now. I can say without any hesitation this was one of the proudest moments of my life. I put in so much time and effort, took so much bodily punishment, all because it is an absolute passion to fight. It makes me feel alive every time I step onto the mats and I will continue to do this until the day that I die.
Here’s some before and after pics of myself to show what just showing up to BJJ did for me.
Thanks for reading.
*edit – I’m getting feedback from a few people that they are considering joining BJJ after reading this…if you have any questions please feel free to hit me up on Twitter @warriors_zen and I will be glad to help and answer questions.