Its hard to explain Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to someone who has never trained, competed or even been to an event. The feelings and raw emotion that one goes through, the feeling of being stripped back of all securities that a person has and uses to shield their inner self from the outside world. I have found that being on the mat has shown me never to judge a person on how they look, how they portray themselves or whether they are a confident or shy person. As soon as a person steps on to the mat, puts on a Gi or walks into the gym, something about them changes. For me personally no matter what has been happening in the hours leading up to this, everything is forgotten and for the time I am on the mat my mind is clear, I am free and for that time I am Jiu Jitsu.
Being still very much what most would call a “newbie” to the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu world, I am surprised, how in the space of just a little over two years I have grown as a person in every aspect of my life, from fitness levels to business sense and even as a husband and father, BJJ has provided me the lessons both on and off the mats required to achieve my version of a “successful man”. Now it is important to realise that not everyone’s definition of successful is the same, if you had of asked me 3 years ago what my version of successful meant it would of looked something like this; Big Bank Account, Big House, Big Lifestyle and Big Cars. Thanks to social media a lot of people still believe that this is what is required to be successful, however it wasn’t until I started Jiu Jitsu and experienced not only the art itself but the BJJ community as a whole did I realise none of these things matter, sure they are nice however they are not necessities. Bob Marley once said “Possession make you rich? I don’t have that type of richness. My richness is in life, forever.”
As I sit here writing this I look back and think about how I have reached this point in my journey and I am excited about where it will lead me in the future, I reminisce on my first few months on the mats. From day one I was hooked, the owner of the gym I train at assured me that would be the case and I have to say he was correct. It was love at first sight for me, something I have only ever experienced once prior in my life. I threw myself into this new relationship as much as I could, I trained whenever and wherever I could, I started following all the big name athletes and watching any tutorial and highlight reel I could find. As with every new thing that is good in peoples life I wanted to tell everyone about my new adventure, so I combined another long time passion of mine with the art of Jiu Jitsu and began writing blog posts about what I was experiencing and how the journey was progressing. After reading Christian Graugarts book the BJJ Globetrotter I decided that I would host an open mat on the beach to bring out like-minded individuals. In doing this I had one goal and one goal only and that was to expand my network and meet other individuals who also shared the same love for this amazing art form. I was thinking maybe 10 – 15 people would attend this with the majority being from the gym I train at, however that was cool by me too, I would of got to know my training partners on a different level, even though we were still rolling we were in a different social setting. Now the response I received from not only the local BJJ community, but internationally was amazing. I was contacted by Christian to conduct and interview for the BJJ Globetrotter website, along with him providing some giveaways for the day, I was also speaking with a few other people who commended me on what I was doing but also warned me about the politics that could creep in, luckily I was forewarned about this, as I had no idea at this point, and if I am to be completely honest I still don’t understand them. I implemented a few things for the day to ensure to the best of my ability it would be a friendly day with people with a common interest coming together having a roll and meeting new people outside of the competition environment. The day went off with a bang we had over 80 people across the mats on the day, with people asking about the next one already.
After this event I decided to write a blog about it and post it on my new site, however with very little traffic I began to look and think outside the box a little and stumbled across an online publication/magazine that goes by the title BJJ Legends. I quickly followed them on Facebook and sent them a private mesaage about what I had done and asked if it was at all possible to write a piece about the open mat to get the word out. After some back and forth with the BJJ Legends page, Kris invited me to write for them as a freelance writer, what an opportunity and all after training for 8 months. For you guys that don’t know, Kris Shaw I believe was the 5th American Woman to receive her Black Belt making her a part of the Women’s Dirty Dozen, the first 12 American women to receive BJJ Black Belts. What really stood out to me about Kris was her willingness to accept me, a person she had never met face to face and allow me to write for her brand that she had been working hard at building since 2007. It shone a new light on the sport that I already had developed a strong bond with. In many conversations I have had with Kris since that first one, she has, whether she realises or not mentored me a lot on this journey and because of that I have had the absolute pleasure to meet (both personally and online) some of the most iconic names within the community and some most genuine people I have ever come across. The way these people have accepted me, many before me and no doubt many more after me has really shown me that this art has something to teach everyone.
When I was arranging the first open mat I was hesitant, simply because I was a white belt. It worked out fine. When I conducted the interview for BJJ Globetrotters once again hesitant, worked out fine. When Kris gave me the opportunity to write regularly and conduct reviews on gear once again so hesitant, who was going to listen or read an article or review from a white belt. Well as it turned out there was a few people interested. The support I received was amazing, it came from far and wide. It lead me to starting the next project, www.openguard.com.au I have a goal that I am working toward day in day out with this site, I want to promote the ENTIRE Australian BJJ community, no matter affiliations, to the rest of the world. I would love to see the Aussie scene become as big as the scene in the USA and I truly believe that we are on track to achieving that. Once again it took me a while to launch the site, for a couple of reasons, 1 – I don’t like to feel as though I am being judged and 2 – Yeah you guessed it, I am still a white belt. Prior to launching this project I spoke with two really influential people I have met along this journey one being Mr Chris Haueter and another being Mr Kristian Woodmansee, both of these gentleman assured me in no certain terms that everything you do in life people will find something to critique you on whether you are a 4 stripe Black Belt or a day 1 White belt people will always hold their opinions, at the end of the day you are going to do what you are going to do and people will say what they are going say. So with that I launched into it. One thing in particular that sticks with me is something Kristian told me and it was that you don’t need a Black belt to run a business/webpage. Since we launched we have had support from the who’s who of Jiu Jitsu, we have featured articles from Pete De Been and John Will, Interviews with Sophia Drysdale, Jorge Santos, Mike Bidwell and David Aguzzi of Grappling Industries fame along with promoting Australian events and interviewing up and coming Australian athletes. Every day I continue to grow with the site as I do on the mats. When people ask me about what I have in store for the future of the site, I honestly don’t know, however I do know that my end goal of promoting the scene will remain the same. I have a picture of Open Guard becoming the premier grappling information website for the Asia Pacific Region, where we will cover the big events, providing results, interviews, images and much more as it happens. It will take a lot of hard work, however one thing that I have learnt over my life is that if you have to work hard to achieve something, then it is most definitely worth it.
Another thing Jiu Jitsu has taught me not to judge a person on face value, not to be afraid to speak with someone because of how they are seen within the community. It has taught me to respect people from all walks of life and that everyone has a story worth listening to, and the key is to actually listen to those stories. It has changed my outlook on life, from wanting to have the BIG bank accounts, BIG houses, BIG cars to value the little things in life, to value the time spent with the ones you love and to create memories. My version of a “successful man” has dramatically changed over the past 2 years as with my outlook on life and views on what makes a GOOD person. It’s been a pretty incredible journey so far, I have gone from being worried about what people think about me worrying that people don’t like me, to realising that there is nothing really at stake and as long as I stay true to who I am then I will be successful in this journey. The next few months will hopefully see Open Guard and Free Rollers take on a couple of really big opportunities and I look forward to all of the challenges that lie ahead, and the amazing people I will meet along the way. My version of a “successful man” is what I am aiming toward now and that will be to focus my time on my family, my Jiu Jitsu, my writing and Open Guard. To be able to combine these together is an absolute dream and I am thankful for those who have guided me along my journey so far.
I know for someone reading this it may seem like I have been practicing for my entire life, the truth is I am VERY new to the art and the lifestyle, I have been training for a little over 2 years, however in those 2 years Jiu Jitsu has taught me many valuable lessons that I hope one day I will be able to pass on to others. When I first started writing my blog it was simply about documenting for my own purposes what was happening, how I was progressing and the experiences that I was having along the way, having seen how many people have read and enjoyed reading from literally all corners of the globe it shows me the reach of social media and provides me with an avenue to speak with like minded individuals, the people that I have met through BJJ and had the pleasure of talking too because of the art and my new website still continues to astound me. I literally have contacts all around the world that I aim to keep in touch with as much as possible, it truly blows my mind. This is something that you wont find in any other sport, take a look at the picture below it says it all.
If anyone ever makes it to Australia, please look me up, but until that time I look forward to continuing to share my journey with each and everyone of you.
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