Lessons from a Dojo
Martial arts have been a very big influence in my life. When I was in sixth grade I heard about Red Dragon Karate, and wanted the chance to learn it. Instead, I found myself in Military school. After that, I ended up in Irvine, California. There my father found a place for me to learn Martial Arts.
That place was a Martial Arts Supply company in Santa Ana named Musashi Martial Arts.
The owner, David Miller, was ahead of his time. He was a former kickboxer who had written a book about the business of Martial Arts. He held kickboxing, Kali and Jeet Kune Do classes in his warehouse.
One of the teachers was a man named Ted Lucaylucay. He was the first student from Dan Inosanto’s school allowed to teach Jeet Kune Do. Dan Inosanto was very close to the founder of Jeet Kune Do, Bruce Lee — and he had learned directly from the source.
I loved every class. I followed Ted from that school in Santa Ana to a place in Huntington Beach, where he opened up his own little studio. I trained with him until he moved away to Washington. I have never forgotten any of David or Ted’s training. My problem was that I didn’t always implement their instructions.
After Ted moved away, I began to train in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an offshoot of Japanese Jiu Jitsu, which has been around in various forms since the 1400’s. It was brought to Brazil in the early 1900’s as “Kodokan Judo” where it was taught to the the sons of Gastao Gracie by a Japanese man named Mitsuyo Maeda. The Gracie brothers modified it and adapted it to its current Brazilian form.
In the art of Jiu Jitsu there is no immediate payoff. You will get tapped, also known as “submitted” many, many times during every practice. Unlike other martial arts that teach form against mitts or pads and often without any opponent at all, Jiu Jitsu is always taught against an opponent. As a beginner, everyone you train against is better than you. This taught me humility, patience and how to relax when faced with crushing strength.
I was already trained to relax when punches and kicks were coming at me — but the oppressive grinding, smothering claustrophobic hold of a Jiu Jitsu opponent is another thing entirely.
You cannot learn one move and expect it to work on everyone you train against. You have to adapt it to your body style and to your opponent. It is a game of human chess and in order to excel you must think many moves ahead.
In Jiu Jitsu, technique prevails. I had to learn to let go of my anger, because there is no place for it on the mat. Strength is important, but not as much as technique. You will always encounter someone bigger and heavier. It is an art where there is no room for “I know but..” You have to listen to your coaches or you will not progress. You must be able to perform, there is no faking it on the mat. Those who do not put in the work fall behind.
When I walk into a gym or a Dojo for the first time, I always look for the best person and that will be who I work with first. In order to become a better fighter you must go against those who are better than you, and learn from them.
Jiu Jitsu has a belt system of promotion. Belts are blue, purple, brown and black, each of which represent an advancing stage in your training. I never trained in a commercial gym where they had monthly belt tests, we always trained until our coach felt we were ready, and only then were we given a new belt. In a real Jiu Jitsu gym a belt acknowledges that you have put in the time and hard work necessary to be at a certain level. Each belt represents years of hard work and daily practice.
I have met many people over the years that I would not have met if not for Jiu Jitsu. The mat is not about winning a match, it is about you and what you can do to improve yourself. It teaches you that you can overcome any obstacle in life with hard work and determination. I have learned that it does not matter what you do, where you came from or where you are today. If you are willing to put in the hard work you will see results.
I’ve heard it said before that some Christians believe that martial arts are not compatible with Christianity because of the involvement of Eastern Mysticism in the past. I firmly believe that God used Martial Arts, and Jiu Jitsu in particular, to bring me back to Him. I cannot tell you how many Christians I have trained with over the years. Their words, lives and actions all served as a testimony to me. Whether it was sitting me down to talk about faith after practice, saying a team prayer before a match, or just being an example in the way they carried themselves.
Now, I am the one one ready to share the Good News on and off the mats.
In today’s instant gratification society it is not normal to commit to training in a sport or an art for many years. For me, Martial Arts has been a lifelong pursuit that has had an effect on every aspect of my life.
What is the special thing that motivates you? What do you have a passion to become great at? Are you willing to put in the hours, days, weeks and years of training?
1 Corinthians 10:31
Therefore, whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 9:26–27
Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.