Life Without Jiu-Jitsu

“I chose not to choose life: I chose something else”

Mark Renton

As I come up to six weeks without training jiu-jitsu as a result of breaking my ribs while rolling with one of Terere’s young lions, this was the longest break I’d had in seven and a half years.

Kicking it in Colombia and Ecuador with nothing to do but read, drink coffee, see dope things and watch pro-wrestling, meant boredom was hardly a problem. But, I was an inveterate grappler, jiu-jitsu was an all-consuming addiction, one that was essential to my existence. It was my lifeblood and to a large extent it defined me.


I missed having direct access to the flow state, the ultimate form of mindfulness that jiu-jitsu provides, no checking Twitter,  no reflecting on past indiscretions, no micro-managing my future, just plugged into the here and now in my white PJs.

I have been left fiending for the euphoric, blissful state that could be obtained from retaining one’s consciousness against seemingly insurmountable odds. The punch through the planet high that no chemical could match.

I have been trying to get my fix by staying permanently attuned to the jiu-jitsu world, listening to podcasts and watching matches.

After my injury the advice given to me was, watch technique videos, come to class, make notes, study matches. This was guidance that I myself have given to injured friends and training partners. However, I was under no pretence that it would have any practical benefit for me whatsoever.

The reason for this, in pedagogical terms, I am the quintessential kinesthetic learner, I learn through doing. The development of my whole game has been based upon the exploration and constant repetition of techniques.

Even as a purple belt, I am the kid in class that after being shown something is guaranteed to fuck it up the first time. Visual or auditory learning is simply not my thing; I have to find my own way with a technique, which means being on the mats with a live body.

While helpful for some learners, the proposed secondary learning methods were a fun distraction but invariably a waste of time for me.


My ribs still hurt but another week and I will be back mainlining jiu-jitsu on a daily basis, putting it before everything else, relationships, work, health. This is a relapse that I could hardly wait for.

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