I recently promoted one of my students from white to blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He had been training with me for one and a half years at Zenyo Jiu Jitsu Baltimore.
During that time, he had made steady progress. But in the last six months, his improvement was so vast, so noticeable and so markedly different than before that he looked like a new person.
Yet, his techniques had changed little. His execution looked better in drilling, but it was nothing remarkable. He used simple, “white belt” level moves. Yet, he was no white belt. Everyone could see that.
I’ve been teaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for five years now. I’ve seen some amazing changes in students that only can be described as total transformations.
I’ve also seen students remain relatively unchanged for years. I wonder why.
Learning Brazilian jiu jitsu is an incredible and amazing challenge. But, as they say, it’s not rocket science.
Learning Brazilian jiu jitsu has been the greatest challenge of my life. It took me 14 years to earn my black belt and I’ve devoted the last six years to teaching others this wonderful martial art.
Yet, I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface.
Few other martial arts present the complexity required for mastery like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Students must be proficient while standing and on the ground, attacking and defending, with submissions and escapes, on top and on bottom. Each new position has dozens of technical possibilities.
So it’s no wonder learning and improvement in this martial art can be difficult, slow and frustrating.
Teaching children's Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes in Baltimore has been an amazing experience for me. Though it was never something that I aspired to do, it has been one of the best experiences of my life. At every class, I’m impressed with the abilities, skills, and smarts of our young people, and they’ve helped me shape a great program at Zenyo Jiu Jitsu Baltimore. They’ve also helped me craft five goals that we use to promote a positive environment where everyone can gain from training in martial arts.
Long before I started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I used to compete in every sport I could at school. I played basketball, football, baseball, soccer, tennis and track. I loved athletics and had tons of great coaches. Of all the instructions I got over years of activity, the only one that stands out to this day came from my father. "Relax," he would say to me during my track races.
One of the greatest discoveries of my life has been the work of Moshe Feldenkrais, the judo master with a busted knee who learned a new way to train the body and movement. His teachings have changed the way that I approach everything that I do, especially how I teach Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at my school in Baltimore. His ideas are such a radical departure from what I have known and considered to be true that they make me question all I thought I knew.
I remember one jiu jitsu training session from my blue belt days. I went against a very strong and fit white belt, who wore me down, passed my guard and trapped me in side control. I couldn't get out. A jiu jitsu nightmare. Only the end of the round saved me.
John David Emmett is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with an interest in movement and the Feldenkrais method. He teaches at Zenyo Jiu Jitsu in Baltimore.