July 31, 2014

Leaving the Ego off the Mat.


Back in the days when I was studying Aikido, a friend of mine had this great idea I’m hoping to somehow implement into my current Jiu-Jitsu training. 

There’s something that happens in Aikido which is truly rare in the martial arts world—students are encouraged to visit other schools and work with other instructors. Many Aikido schools will even invite guest instructors to come teach seminars for their students.

This is almost unheard of and maybe even considered a little blasphemous among other systems, which is sad because some of the best parties I’ve ever been to came after Aikido seminars. Many Aikido training centers have these school patches that are about the size of a 50-cent piece, and usually worn on the left sleeve above the student’s name.

In an act so simple it bordered on genius, my friend started to collect school patches from all the places he trained, and then sewed them onto his Aikido bag. He was a total Aikido hippie who traveled the world, so looking at his pack was like tracing his journey on a map.

He had a patch from Hombu Dojo (The Aikido headquarters dojo located in Tokyo), a tie-dyed patch from Aikido of Woodstock, a few with French words I couldn’t read, and dozens of others. The pack was worn and used, but it was also one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

Whenever I had trained at another Aikido school, I would usually try to get a picture of me with whoever was teaching the class. I would put the photos into a book with a little description of the school and how I thought the training was. Kind of like a Zagat guide for Aikido.

Sometimes I would buy a school t-shirt if they had one. I like my book and my t-shirts, but the patch covered pack was truly inspired. It was like he could take all of these different schools with him wherever he trained. When I first saw the pack I thought it was a brilliant idea, and kicked myself for missing the opportunity to pick up patches at all the other schools I had previously trained at.

After that I managed to acquire four or five new patches, but it was nothing in comparison. In almost all of the other martial arts, Jiu-Jitsu included, if you show up at a dojo saying you’re from another school looking to train, they take it as a challenge and usually try to prove their superiority by hurting you.

Some of the toughest fights I’ve been in were when I’ve visited other schools. These were also the times when my worst injuries happened and the times when I was forced to hurt someone else. For example, when I was studying Kenpo, another school brought some of their students to ours for a friendly sparring session that ended with several of us in the emergency room. This is stupid.

The martial arts are a lot like chess in that you become better by playing with people better than you. Aikido and Jiu-Jitsu have so much more in common than people might think at first glance. Why can’t an openness to train with others among our Jiu-Jitsu family be one of them?

Almost every Jiu-Jitsu student I have ever met has also studied some other fighting system at some point in their lives, so why all the butt-hurt if a stranger shows up at your school looking to roll with someone? Personally I’m going to train at every Jiu-Jitsu studio I possibly can. I’m going to train with those who are better than me, those who might possibly have egotistical issues about training with me, and those who want to hurt me simply because I’m there, because hopefully if I can be open to them, they will see that I’m a pretty nice guy, and that I’m no different than them.

After that maybe, just maybe they can accept me. Perhaps after they might not be so stand-offish with the next person to come in. After that…who knows…maybe we can even start collecting patches from all the places we’ve trained and share them with each other.



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Editor: Travis May

Photo: Pixoto/Vedrana Vidovic

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