Tuesday, July 3, 2018

When jiu-jitsu says "Fly"

People come to jiu-jitsu for different reasons. That's a cliché , but as my brother says, cliches get to be cliches for a reason: they're usually true.

I like to fight. When people used to ask me out, back before technology made dating obsolete, I would respond, "I'm a fighter, not a lover," which I thought was pretty clever and seemed to have no damping effect on the man in question whatsoever. A snappy comeback is no match for hormones.

When dating was still a thing

But even though I like to fight, that's not really what brought me to jiu-jitsu. I came to jiu-jitsu because I had become severely ill with chronic Lyme disease and I wanted to feel human again in some way. I actually would have preferred to do something that seemed more fun, or something I had a chance of understanding, like muay thai or tae kwon do (kick kick punch punch), but I needed something I could do lying down.

That's why I came to jiu-jitsu.

I had no idea what I was getting into, what jiu-jitsu was, what jiu-jitsu was capable of being.

Jiu-jitsu took me in and embraced me like a mother, like the mother everybody should have, not the mother who hits you until you're 33 years old like mine did, and only stops because you threaten to hit her back. Jiu-jitsu was my safe space, my happy childhood, my healer, my teacher, my lover, my best (and only) friend.

Everything and everyone jiu-jitsu has given me was given to me at exactly the right time. My first gym was just so much fun. My instructor, Dudu, had been a child prodigy back in Brazil, and there was always a feeling of recess time in his jiu-jitsu class. Sometimes the warmups were real warmups, and sometimes the warmups were sitting around pretending to stretch and talking about favorite menu items at Wally Waffle. But the jiu-jitsu was mindblowing. I didn't necessarily learn a lot of jiu-jitsu just because I suck at sports and I was far from well, but nobody expected me to. Everything I did, everything I was, was awesome, according to my instructor and my teammates. From Dudu I learned about freedom, and that laughter really is the best medicine.

Dudu Barros team
At a certain point, I started becoming aware of my jiu-jitsu deficiencies, and that's when I met my second instructor, Ricardo. I met Ricardo the same week my father died, and Ricardo represented, to me, the father I would have liked to have, or thought I would have liked to have, and didn't. While my own father was remote and hands-off, an intellectual who believed that you can't really teach anybody anything, Ricardo was, by his own admission, a control freak - or, more accurately, a side control freak. He taught me about control - good control, self-control, the kind of control you can use to achieve a goal rather than the control I had known up to then, the control people use to trap you and hurt you. Ricardo taught me the beauty of simplicity, the old-school game of pass the guard, take side, and submit. And he also taught me that the father I had was the father I was meant to have, the father I needed, the father who was my soulmate. Ricardo gave me something my father didn't have to give, but he wasn't my father, and he didn't try to be. He was, and will always be, my teacher.

My teacher Ricardo Pires

And then, just as I had jiu-jitsu all figured out, like all blue belts have jiu-jitsu all figured out, I met Robson Moura, and I walked through the wardrobe into Narnia. If Ricardo had made me see the beauty in simplicity, Robson made me see the simplicity in complexity. If Ricardo taught me the art of controlling a situation by controlling myself, Robson taught me the art of controlling a situation by not controlling it. Robson has always said that jiu-jitsu has no end and in observing him and his jiu-jitsu, I realized that they weren't just pretty words. Most jiu-jitsu is, whether we like to admit it or not, based to some degree on size, strength, speed and athleticism. Robson Moura jiu-jitsu is the opposite of that. It is a 130 lb. man against the world - a kind of Rube Goldberg invention, just as the Universe is a Rube Goldberg invention, of infinite solutions to finite problems. And Robson Moura jiu-jitsu has style. It has class. It's elegant and sneaky and fierce and graceful and all boy. From Robson I learned that my alibis were bullshit.

i.e. how the Universe and Robson Moura jiu-jitsu work

All boy

I met many instructors along the way, many of them excellent, some of them not so excellent, all of whom contributed a piece to my jiu-jitsu puzzle. From Saulo Ribeiro I learned the value of will, from Pedro Sauer I learned about finesse, from Mario Sperry I learned about tenacity, from Bruno Bastos I learned to savor the smash.

And all along the way, my body and my mind continued to heal, slowly, inexorably, following the lessons I learned on the mat and applying them within. At first I simply survived, on and off the mat, which, as Saulo says in his book, is the role of the white belt. Gradually, I learned to take control and to prevail, until nine years into the game, I was a healthy person, in defiance of all the prognostications that told me a diagnosis of chronic Lyme was the equivalent of a life sentence, or, more accurately, death in life.

Jiu-jitsu gave me everything. It was a family when my own family sucked, a friend when I had none, a place to be myself, while simultaneously showing me glimpses of that self, that self that was even more mysterious to me than jiu-jitsu itself.

Jiu-jitsu made me rethink my priorities. Up to when I got sick, my life had been pretty much on a standard track of work, dating, and hanging out with friends. Jiu-jitsu made me see the futility of wasting time on losery guys when I could be on a mat with some of the finest men I have ever known. If much of my energy in my pre-bjj life had gone into looking good, jiu-jitsu made me accept looking like a hot mess as normal.

For the first time, I had the courage to look at myself, and inside myself, and see who and what was there, not who and what I pretended to be to make the world like me or pretend to like me. I accepted myself and my bad hair and my sweatiness and my really terrible looking toenails.

I realized that life is overrated and love is overrated and jiu-jitsu is underrated and I was, if not happy, at least content in that knowledge.

But last weekend, when Robson advised us to stop fighting and start feeling, it was as if a giant comet hit my safe little jiu-jitsu nest, the world I had built for myself, twig by twig, armbar by armbar, in these last 10 years on the mats.

I don't think Robson meant to say anything profound. He was just talking about jiu-jitsu.

But genius gonna be genius, and the truth is always true. Truth can't be true on the mat and false in your life. 

And when Robson talked, very briefly, last weekend, about how fighting is a losing strategy, it was as if the past ten years of my life had been rolled out for me to see, without judging, but without sugarcoating it, and I realized that I had come to jiu-jitsu to fight because fighting is safe. Life is dangerous. Love is dangerous.

Jiu-jitsu is safe. At least, when you're fighting. 

Fighting means keeping something or someone at arm's length. It also means not thinking. Fighting, by definition, inhibits thought, because the fight-or-flight reflex was given to human beings so they wouldn't approach peril and say "Hell no" as any sensible person would.

All hormones inhibit thought. That's how babies are born.

Feeling, on the other hand, is not safe at all.

But when Robson told us to stop fighting and feel, it clicked, and I did exactly what he said, right that very second, and I actually passed some really tough guards in King of the Mat, although my guard retention still sucks. The point is, I had immediate proof that Robson was right, not that anybody really needs proof of that anymore.

But although I didn't know it right then, Robson's words touched something much deeper in me.

I realized that jiu-jitsu itself has become the fight for me. Yes, it has been a fight against illness, a fight against injustice, a fight against the monsters left by abuse, but it had also - and perhaps primarily - become a fight against love, a fight against life itself. I had become entrenched in my jiu-jitsu like a soldier in a battle who has dug herself in so deep she doesn't realize that the war ended a long time ago.

The war was over a long time ago

Jiu-jitsu had become a fight against myself.

I had begun to sense that, dimly, before the Toronto Camp, when my whole body was in pain, but not the normal everything hurts jiu-jitsu pain we all feel all the time. My bones hurt. My muscles hurt. It felt like a fever, like fire in my bones and in my spine. My nervous system has been on fire for months and sleepless nights were the new normal. So I knew my body wasn't happy.

Jiu-jitsu showed me, with Robson's help, that the pain is coming from my body's war on itself. I believe that jiu-jitsu is a thing, a consciousness, like God. Maybe jiu-jitsu is God, or God is jiu-jitsu. If jiu-jitsu has no end, and God has no end, then it only makes sense. The only other thing that has no end is love (and, according to Einstein, human stupidity, but that's another post).

Jiu-jitsu took me in, it healed me, it gave me all the tools I need to be healthy and possibly even happy, and now it has taken me to the edge of the nest, given me a gentle nudge in the kidneys, and said "Fly."

Last year was such a tough year just in terms of dealing with crazy, batshit, insecure people. There is evil in the world. There is evil in jiu-jitsu. It was also an amazing year, with Robson surprising me and giving me 4 stripes on my purple belt - when I had already given up hope of ever being on the team -  in my own personal promotion ceremony that I had all to myself, just me, and saying really nice things about me that unfortunately I can't remember because I was so numb.

Sometimes dreams do come true

Because those things don't happen. Fairy tales are just words, and dreams don't come true - at least, not for me.

And Robson, as usual, turned everything upside-down, which is his specialty. He took my alibi and he made it into a rainbow, as if it were easy, as if it were the most normal thing in the world, as if I deserved it.

And when I went to Master Worlds I went to the airport chapel at CLE and I prayed, not to win, but just not to feel so alone. And I did get an answer and the answer was: It's not about winning. It's about learning to fly. That's what I gave you wings for.

I didn't exactly fly at Master Worlds but I did win one match, my first competition win - I mean it was only like my fourth tournament ever - but the main thing was, it broke the long losing streak that had begun in November 2008 when I got so sick that I left an entire life in California and came home to Ohio broken and terrified, that losing streak that continued as I halfheartedly tried to find a way to exist under the radar.

I healed, not because I believed I could heal, just like I didn't ever believe I could get to brown belt.  I'm a realist.  I healed - and I got to brown belt - because I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I didn't give up, and even that wasn't because I was so tenacious, it was because staying in the same place was so unbearable that it forced me to keep moving. 

As Robson says: People ask me what's the secret to getting good. There's no secret. Just train.

I believe that the same can be said of every other important thing in life. There's no secret. Just keep going and don't stop. You don't have to leap tall buildings in a single bound, you don't have to sprint, it doesn't matter if you crawl on your belly like a reptile. Just don't stop.

But while I was healing, crawling stealthily under the radar, it wasn't the same as being alive. It was like a medically induced coma, a dream place where the patient's body has time to heal without having to deal with anything or anyone else.

It was like the story of Sleeping Beauty. It was like I was supposed to die but I got chronic Lyme disease instead. And if I seem a little old to be Sleeping Beauty, it's also true that the Sleeping Beauty in the story was asleep for 100 years. So she definitely had her AARP card.

Asleep for 100 years

I didn't know it, I didn't realize it, and I wasn't supposed to. I was in a jiu-jitsu induced coma for my own good. Jiu-jitsu didn't want me to start second-guessing myself and beating myself up for all the time that was passing and all the life that I wasn't living. Jiu-jitsu put me in that safe place, jiu-jitsu kept me in my happy childhood, so subtly and so cleverly that I didn't know jiu-jitsu was doing it. I thought it was me.

And even when something happened to wake me up, something nice, something very Fairy Tale-esque, and it occurred to me that maybe there was something out there for me that didn't necessarily involve a gi, I still saw myself in a jiu-jitsu centric life.

I still saw life and love as being fundamentally inferior to jiu-jitsu. And maybe they are.

But what I've realized, what I am slowly awakening to, is that it doesn't matter. Maybe jiu-jitsu is more fun than real life, or real love, and makes more sense, and the guys are better looking, and the pain, no matter how excruciating, is still less than the pain of a broken heart, or abuse, or disease.

Jiu-jitsu is the kind teacher, the loving mother, the wise father that prepare us for life. Of course it's not as painful. Of course it's more fun. But nobody said life, or love, were supposed to be fun. I don't really know what they are supposed to be. At a guess, I'd say life, love and jiu-jitsu are about growth.

And part of growth is knowing when it's time to step up your game.

At war with the body
Pic courtesy of Leeann Morris

Whatever else life is or isn't, it's meant to be lived. Whatever else love is, or isn't, it's meant to be experienced. Not guessed at. Not avoided. Not blogged about.

Will it hurt? Yes. But one of the many, many things jiu-jitsu teaches us is that pain is not a reason not to do something. If it were, nobody would train. Pain, illness, injury, they change your game, they don't end it. Jiu-jitsu has no end. 

"Jiu-jitsu has no end." - Robson Moura
pic courtesy of Leeann Morris

It takes courage. The root word of courage is cor, i.e. "heart." And the thing about courage is, it's not just for the brave. In fact, I believe that cowards can be the most courageous of all, because we're terrified and yet we do it - whatever "it" is - anyway.

For some, like Robson, courage is innate. For others, like me, courage is simply the last resort of a heart that has run out of alibis.

Does that mean I'm leaving jiu-jitsu? Absolutely not. I still love jiu-jitsu, and I have no doubt that jiu-jitsu will continue to be my guide, my friend, my mentor, and my teacher for many, many years to come. I still plan to train just as much (or as little) as before, and I don't plan to half-ass it any more than I've half-assed it in the last ten years.

But jiu-jitsu has become - or possibly, has always been for me - a substitute for life. A substitute for love, for friends, for family, for everything this beautiful world has to offer. And that's not how it's supposed to go.

How it's supposed to go is that jiu-jitsu, for me, is a means to an end. It's a path, not journey's end. On the other hand, it has been said (and I may have been the one who said it) that life is not about the pot of gold, it's about the rainbow. Jiu-jitsu has been, and still is, a rainbow path to many other rainbows for me. It has been a rite of passage but the point of passage is that you eventually have to pass, whether you want to or not. You eventually have to grow up.

Jiu-jitsu is a rainbow path to a million other rainbows

And that's where I am right now.

Back in 2010 when I was a blue belt training under Ricardo Pires, he had us do an open guard passing drill as a group. It was a new gym, with mostly white and blue belt guys, and I kept taking elbows and knees to the face, until Ricardo got that tight look in his jaw that tells you he's pissed and stopped the drill.

"She's tough," he said, "but she's still a woman. Control yourselves."

I thought about Ricardo's words as I drove back from Toronto. It feels like 2010 was the last time anybody even noticed I was a woman, including me. To tell the truth, maybe I didn't want them to. If being a person feels vulnerable, being a woman feels even more so. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to be vulnerable, so much more than it takes to fight, but I think, I hope, that jiu-jitsu has given me that courage. I love jiu-jitsu as much or more than I always have, but I can't hide behind it anymore like a child hiding behind her mommy until the monsters go away, or hiding behind her monsters until her mommy goes away.

It's time for me to grow up. It's time for me to live.

It's time for me to fly.

When jiu-jitsu says: Fly

Monday, June 25, 2018

Fight to lose, hustle to win

If you try to fight against someone who's bigger than you or stronger than you, you're probably gonna lose. - Robson Moura

Brasa black belt Deon Thompson working another angle

Many times, Robson Moura has spoken at seminars about how fighting is a losing strategy.

I listened, and I thought about how nice it must be to be Robson, to be able to win without fighting, and I kept on fighting.

Because he's Robson Moura and I'm not. And I misunderstood him. I thought he was saying "You don't need to fight to win," and in my mind I thought, "Yes I do."

But he wasn't saying that. 

He was saying that if you try to match power with power, whoever has the most power will probably win. And if that person isn't you, you probably shouldn't go there.
Don't try to fight power with power

He wasn't saying don't train with them or don't fight them in a competition. He wasn't saying don't try to win. He wasn't even saying be nice, don't beat up on your partner, which he does say sometimes and I just pretend not to hear. He was saying don't try to fight strength with strength because you will probably lose.

I've actually heard a lot of people say similar things. But when a 300 lb. guy says stop fighting, I listen with a grain of salt. It's easy to say don't fight when you can kill a human being just by sitting on him. When a 140-lb. guy says stop fighting, I believe him.

The problem is, fighting is fun. That's why most people get into jiu-jitsu in the first place. I don't think anybody starts training to become a better person, or to heal from disease or a broken heart, even though jiu-jitsu can do those things for you and more. Jiu-jitsu can also break your body and your heart, but that's another post. The point is, people come to jiu-jitsu to fight. In this world of bullies, where you have to eat a lot of shit and smile, jiu-jitsu is a place where you finally get to fight back.

In fact, fighting is almost more fun than winning, and that's why we keep doing it. It also works, at least sometimes. A flawed strategy is still a strategy. It will work up to when it stops working.

It doesn't matter if it's a flawed armbar or a bad habit in your love life or on the job. It will work until you meet someone who can beat you at your own game. And you will encounter that person, no matter how tough you are, no matter how much you think you know about life, love and jiu-jitsu, and then you're going to be scrambling for another strategy.  Late.

That's why, as Brasa black belt Deon Thompson says: You gotta have another hustle.

Deon wasn't actually talking about jiu-jitsu in that way. He was talking about trying to make a living from jiu-jitsu. According to Deon, anyone teaching jiu-jitsu should have other sources of income.

But his words apply equally well to the game.

The reality is, you're not going to stop fighting today and neither am I. That's because fighting is fun and fighting feels safe. Fighting keeps the person at a distance.

But when you stop fighting, it doesn't feel safe anymore. When you stop fighting, you let them in. You know where they're going and what they're doing because you feel it, as Master Robson says, because in that moment, there is no boundary between them and you.

And that's scary. 

It's scary because you never know when someone is going to go too far, or when you are going to go too far. You never know when you are going to hurt someone, or when they are going to hurt you, and so you fight, to keep that distance intact - on the mat and off.

But all the energy we spend fighting actually goes to fuel the person or thing we are fighting against, so in the end, we are not fighting the thing, we are fighting ourselves - our own weaknesses, our own demons. And if our demons are strong enough - and they usually are - we lose.

It's weird how strong weaknesses can be. It shouldn't be that way. But the truth is, weaknesses are often stronger than strengths. 

What you resist, persists. What you embrace, dissolves.

The question is: What do we do if we're not supposed to fight? Just lie down and wait to be submitted? 

I think the answer is the one provided by Deon Thompson: Get another hustle.

We don't have to stop fighting. You don't have to kill your demons. I don't know if Master Robson has killed his own demons. I think they're his favorite training partners. But that's just my guess.

My guess is that life, love and jiu-jitsu aren't about saying yes or no to any given thing. Life, love and jiu-jitsu are about saying yes to everything. It's just a matter of timing. Knowing when to fight and when not to fight. All of jiu-jitsu is built on this yin and yang. When to be heavy, when to be fast. When to be sneaky, when to be strong. When to survive, when to escape. When to cage your demons and when to unleash them.

And I think, if we're going to talk about what makes Robson Moura jiu-jitsu different, it's based on this idea of doing everything, but constantly switching it up. He's heavy, he's light, he's fast, he's slow, he's nice, he's mean, he's everything. And if you watch him, he doesn't really move in straight lines. He moves in zig-zags and circles in a syncopated rhythm. He is predictably unpredictable in the sense that you know he is going to surprise you but you don't know how or when.

At the same time, he wants what everyone wants: the submission. And everything he does is geared to that.

He may be all over the place, but he's actually going straight to the submission. It's just that his version of a straight line is a zig-zag.

It's simple. It's just a complex kind of simplicity.

Master Robson doesn't like the word "simple" - I think he equates it with "easy" - but the two words are almost opposites. Simplicity is taking a lot of different things and/or people and/or ideas, and making them behave in unity. Like, for example, a team. And that's anything but easy.

In fact, achieving simplicity can be very complex, and that's Robson Moura jiu-jitsu in a nutshell. It's the shortest distance between two points but making up his own rules in regard to little things like gravity and velocity.

Robson Moura doesn't fight gravity, he doesn't fight natural law, he doesn't fight his training partners or his opponents or his friends or his students. Neither does he just go with the flow. He is the flow. He makes a plan and then bends the Universe to his will.

That's it. It's about as simple as it gets. It's also unbelievably difficult.

How the Universe behaves for Robson

How the Universe (mis)behaves for normal people

You have to hustle. And when that hustle doesn't work, you gotta have another hustle, just like Deon Thompson says.

To hustle means to move fast, but it's also a job, and it can also be a trick or a scam. A hustler can be a con artist or a thief, which doesn't sound very nice, but if you think about it, that's what we're doing here. We don't want to take a submission by force, except when we do. We want to steal it, to trick you into giving it to us. A submission is a sting operation. It has to keep moving and so do you.

You have to hustle, to keep your opponent on the run so he doesn't know which way is up and which way is down, and then ever so gently you take his arm, or his neck, before he even knows what's happening.

That's a hustle.

Robson Moura is not a big talker. He's a big doer. But when he does talk, I listen. I don't always do what he says, not because I don't believe him, but because I want to get there my own way. But I keep the things he says in my mind and I know they're there for me when I get to the point where they make sense, where I need them.

When Robson Moura talks, people listen

The truth is, fighting gets results, at least up to a certain point. And as long as you're getting results, you're not going to change. But if you train jiu-jitsu long enough, you will eventually get to the point where you realize you're actually fighting to lose.

And that's when you need to get another hustle.

Robson Moura Total Domination Grappler's Quest

Doomsday fighting to lose

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas (and go train!)

I was going to write this wonderful post about love and forgiveness for Christmas. I had it all planned out in my mind. Then I remembered I suck at both those things.

When Jesus came, he introduced these new ideas. Sure, people had love, personal love, but they didn't have the love-your-enemy kind of love. 

And forgiveness was pretty much unknown. They had the Code of Hammurabi which is where we get "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." Believe it or not, the Code of Hammurabi was seen as progressive for its time because its purpose was to limit the cycle of revenge to one eye for one eye, one tooth for one tooth, and that was it. Up until then, it was an endless cycle of violence and blood and sleeping with one eye (your only remaining eye) open. It was exhausting. But it was what was expected of you.

The Code of Hammurabi

And Jesus came along and said, "You don't have to do that." And it was a very big deal and it was part of the reason Jesus was reviled by the Establishment at that time. Because you don't want to stand between people and their victimhood.

Because that's what hate is, really. It's victimhood. I hate you because you did whatever to me and you hate me because I did whatever to you.

People will give up their lives before they will give up their victimhood. Because victimhood is an ironclad alibi. It's "I could have been and done so much more" (if you hadn't done x, y and z to me). My failure is not my fault - it's yours.

And Jesus took that away. He allowed himself to be crucified but he never allowed anyone to give him victim status. He turned his own murder into triumph. If you think about it, it was pure genius.

Because Jesus won. He was like, Go ahead, kill me, I'm just gonna rise from the dead, and he did.

Jesus: Win, by resurrection. Death: Loss, by sucking.

It was the biggest upset in history.

We tend to look at the story of Jesus as the story of sacrifice, and it was. But even more than that, it is the story of victory - victory over hate and evil and death itself.

Victim and victor have the same Latin root, vic-, which means a change or substitution of some kind. The point is that a word, or an identity, starting with vic- can swing either way. It's up to you.

People don't want to hear that. I don't always want to hear it, because it's true, and we hate truth almost as much as we hate having our victim status threatened. Actually, the truth is what threatens our victim status. 

Even if what happened to you was really, really shitty, there is usually something you can do to change your circumstances and there is usually something to be gained from your shitty experience.

That doesn't mean that what happened wasn't bad and it doesn't make it right. Terrible things happen to good people, to children, every day, and those things stay with you for your whole life. 

Even so, you can change from victim to victor - but you have to want it.

That was Jesus's message.

If you think about it, that's what jiu-jitsu is all about. Jiu-jitsu was not invented for the big, strong guy to beat up on the little guy, even though that's kind of what it's turning into. Jiu-jitsu was invented to give the little guy a fighting chance.

Jiu-jitsu gives us the tools to transform our reality by transforming ourselves.

Robinho vs. Big guy

But there are no guarantees. A fighting chance doesn't mean you're always going to win. It means that if you try hard enough, you can win - at jiu-jitsu and at life and at love and at anything and everything that means something to you.

It's not going to be easy and it's not going to be pain-free and it's probably not going to be fair. You are going to experience pain and injustice and heartbreak and betrayal.

But what's your alternative? Give up? Claim victim status and talk to all the other victims about who's the biggest victim?

Carolyn Myss calls the language of victimhood "woundology." It's when you get together with other victims and secretly compete to see who's the biggest victim. And according to Myss, that's why people don't heal from disease. That's why people don't get out of abusive relationships, or the favela, or the past. Because they identify too strongly with their victimhood. #victim #poorme #boohoo

That doesn't mean you shouldn't own your past and your experience. If it happened, it happened, and it shaped you and formed you and made you who you are, and you need to look at it and you need to understand it, not just sweep it under the rug and pretend it didn't happen. Awareness is a huge part of jiu-jitsu and it's a huge part of life. You need to understand what happened to you and how it happened and why it happened so that hopefully, it won't happen again.

In life and in jiu-jitsu, shit happens. You can wallow in it, or you can plant something and watch it grow. There is a song in Italian that says: From manure, flowers grow, but nothing grows from diamonds. (De Andre)

And that's what jiu-jitsu is about: it's about turning manure into flowers, turning bad situations into good situations or at least, okayish situations.

There are two fundamental rules in jiu-jitsu and life:
Rule 1) Don't get there.
Rule 2) You're probably going to get there. So here are some things you can do to get out of there and maybe even emerge victorious.

And this is why I coming back to Robson Moura's story. Yes, I've talked about it before. But the point is, his story exemplifies, to me, someone who at the age of 10 found himself at a crossroads: on the one hand there was a sign marked VICTIM STATUS. On the other hand was a sign marked INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT ROAD TO SUCCESS, HAPPINESS, AND LIFE ITSELF. And Master Robson never hesitated.

I don't think it was a tough decision for him, because I don't think Master Robson ever doubted himself. I don't think he knows how to doubt himself. But even if he had any self-doubt, Master Robson knew himself well enough to know that failure was never going to fit him, any more than a pair of size 38 L jeans would ever fit him. Victim status was never going to be an option.

He went after success with the same fierce tenacity, the same unique "Robinhoness" that made him, not only successful, but a legend in the sport.

People look at him now and they act like it was meant to be. I've literally had people brush off the favela as if it were inconsequential by saying, "But he was so talented."

But as Robson himself told me some time ago, "There were 50 guys more talented than me."

Why did he make it while you've never heard of those 50 guys?

Sure, we can talk about will, and athletic talent of course, and tenacity, and all those things, but one of the things that has always struck me about Master Robson is his ability to sort things into important and not important.

It's a binary system. For those not familiar with the binary system, it's the system computers are based on, and it just sorts all information into two groups - 0 and 1. That's how everything is coded. And I feel like Master Robson does that in his jiu-jitsu and his life. Everything that comes his way is either a 0 or a 1 and anything that's a 0 he just ignores. Which gives him more energy to deal with the 1's.

In other words, he doesn't sweat the small stuff. He doesn't even sweat the big stuff unless he absolutely has to. He just ignores it. Granted, sometimes he gets it wrong. He admitted to sometimes throwing away important documents in his war on clutter.

But for the most part, his system has seemed to work out pretty well, and I'm going to tell you why that matters in a minute so bear with me.

Jesus came here to teach about love and forgiveness. After 50 years on this earth, I still don't really understand what those words mean.

Jesus is hot!

The problem with love is it's so big and it's so varied. Sometimes love looks like love and sometimes love looks like hate and sometimes - a lot of times - love looks like jiu-jitsu. I mean it's a fight but it's also a team effort and it's fun and it also hurts but no matter how much it hurts you never want to stop.

Meanwhile, the problem with forgiveness is it's just too hard. Because there are two scenarios: one, the person who hurt you deliberately tried to hurt you because they are a fucking asshole; two, the person who hurt you loves you, and they either didn't mean to hurt you, or they hurt you on purpose because maybe you hurt them too, or maybe they think you don't love them like they love you, or something.

Either way, I don't really get how we can turn either of those scenarios into forgiveness. Because if the person is just a fucking asshole, why should you forgive them? 

On the other hand, if it's somebody you love, and/or somebody who loves you, what's to forgive? If you hurt me because you love me or vice-versa, then that pain doesn't really hurt, or at least it hurts in a good kind of way. And no I'm not talking about abusive relationships. I'm talking about misunderstandings.

I've had a lot of those in my life. Part of it is, I just feel invisible. Not in a bad way. I just never imagine that I could be that important to anyone that they really notice whether or not I'm in the room, or on the mat, or whatever it is. So I just kind of come and go like a ghost and people think I'm blowing them off. This happened with my father a lot. We were both aloof, proud remote people who were so smart that we were dumb, because we forgot how to say simple things like: I love you. I miss you. I want you in my life. When my father was dying, I still couldn't tell him that I loved him. I still didn't know if it was okay to hold his hand. I wrote a blog post instead, and my mom read it to him, and he liked it a lot, and if you want, you can read it here:

The Big Wave

We both had hurt feelings - a lot. But when you go and sift through it, when we were at the very end, we looked at each other and there was absolutely nothing to forgive, because everything we did, every mistake, every unforgiveable offense, we did out of love.

And that kind of thing happens in jiu-jitsu - a lot. Our training partners, our teammates, our instructors become like our family and sometimes, more than family. We have certain expectations of them and they have certain expectations of us and the problem is, we don't always voice those expectations. Which leads to disappointment which leads to pain which leads to estrangement.

The longer you train, the more you will experience the painful side of jiu-jitsu, both physically and emotionally.

I'm not suggesting you forgive the unforgiveable. I do believe that's what Jesus wants us to do but as Steve Harvey said: "I ain't there yet."

I don't know about you, but I ain't there yet either.

What I'm suggesting is that we adopt Master Robson's strategy of a binary system. Focus on what matters and let the rest go. As Jesus said, Leave the dead to bury the dead. Don't let the grudges and hurts mess up your game. Don't let the assholes get you down and don't let the people you love trick you into believing they don't love you.

The assholes don't matter. The people you love do matter.

And if they've done something unforgiveable to you, or you've done something unforgiveable to them, stop worrying about forgiveness. God sees into their hearts just as He sees into yours and He sees the love there and He will handle the forgiveness part if we handle the love part.

In real life, love can be hard. In jiu-jitsu, love is easy - just train.

And if you really think about it, love is the ultimate victory. Because love is who you are, it's who we all are. It's the magic Silly Putty out of which the Universe was created. When you allow someone to stop the love, the darkness wins and you lose. But when you can say, as Jesus did, I don't give a fuck what you do to me, I don't even care if you kill me, you can't make me stop loving you because you're not the boss of me, that's when you win. And winning is what it's all about.

For those who say they don't care about winning, you're either a) lying; b) in the wrong art on the wrong planet. Does winning always look like winning? No. The real victory is conquering yourself, your fears and weaknesses.

The real victory is imposing your game. And I believe, really and truly, that the only game that matters is the love game. Not love for your opponent, necessarily, or love for your neighbor, or anything hard like that. Just love for this art, love for beauty, love for fun, love for the opportunity to escape from your Homer Simpson world for a minute and be epic. Just love, baby. 

So get back on the mat and train with the people who hurt you and the people you hurt. Train until the pain of jiu-jitsu makes the emotional pain go away. Train until the blood, sweat and tears turn into a little puddle of pain on the mat. Somebody will be by soon with a bucket of bleach to wash the pain away.

Don't worry about the assholes. Your time on this Earth is so short. Why not spend it training with the people you love?

I'm not saying forgive and I'm not saying forget.

I'm saying you have a choice between victimhood and victory,  and when you choose, choose wisely, because there are no do-overs.

I'm saying go train.

And Merry Christmas.

For unto us a child is born