2 Martial Arts Quotes That Changed My Life

I have changed quite a bit since I began Brazilian jiu-jitsu. When I first started training, I was a slightly overweight klutz who regularly tripped over my own feet — even when I had an opponent in guard!

Today, I am a second-degree black belt at the top of my game. I have won gold medals in eight different weight classes in all major tournaments. I’ve taught all of the best fighters in the world — Tonon, Garcia, Buchecha, Dern, and eight Gracies — and they all tell me the same thing: “Master Chris, there isn’t a belt red enough for you.”

Okay, that last paragraph was a lie.

However, my outlook on Brazilian jiu-jitsu — and martial arts in general — has changed significantly over the years.

Here are two quotes that helped inspire that change.

“The higher I go up in the ranks, the less safe I feel.” 

My former instructor told me this one. When I first heard it I said to myself, “Wait! What??? Isn’t the entire point of martial arts to feel safe in the streets? Aren’t I putting in all of those hard hours on the mats in the hopes that I will look like Jet Li in ‘Kiss of the Dragon’?”

I was even more confused considering my instructor was a Gracie Barra black belt, judo brown belt, and former bouncer. How could a guy like that possibly feel unsafe in a street fight?

But as I thought more about it, the light bulbs went off in my head. If you’re regularly sparring — and not simply punching air or going through highly choreographed “self-defense” techniques — one of the lessons you will learn is just how unpredictable a fight can be.

Let me put it this way: Ronda Rousey beat Miesha Tate twice. Holly Holm beat Rousey with seeming ease. Going by that logic, Holm should have annihilated Tate, right?

Wrong! Miesha Tate handed Holly Holm her first loss at UFC 196.  Fight outcomes are rarely predictable.

You will also learn that it’s impossible to (ethically) recreate a street fight in the gym. The stress levels, the knowledge that your opponent couldn’t care less about your safety, the fact that he could be armed with something that could kill you — all of these factors are why no gym can prepare you for what you’ll face if you’re ever in a life-or-death fight.

Comedian, fight analyst, and ripped BJJ black belt, Joe Rogan put it best:

What quotes like my instructor’s and Rogan’s taught me was that, yes, martial arts should increase your chances of surviving a street fight, but it should also make you more likely to avoid a street fight. Unlike the cocky newbie who learns a couple of techniques and thinks she’s Wonder Woman, an experienced martial artist knows she’s never truly safe or prepared for a street fight. For that reason, she’s more likely to walk away from a confrontation, even if it means sacrificing her ego.

Simply put: if your training makes you feel safe, you haven’t been training long enough.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu “isn’t even real fighting. It’s just a bunch of play.” 

I can just picture all of the hardcore BJJ fanatics clenching their fists and screaming at the computer, “F*ck you, blue belt p*ssy! Jiu-jitsu is life! Jiu-jistu is MY life! The Jiu-Jitsu Times sucks!”

I applaud your enthusiasm. But no matter how passionate you are about rolling around in your tights…er, spats… with a bunch of strangers, this quote — which comes from The Grappling Academy’s Coach Tom — is important to remember whenever you get depressed, angry, or “blue belt blue” about your BJJ performance.

And when I say “you”, I mean “me.”

Did you ever have a guy in your class who would lose his temper so badly whenever he got tapped that the coach would have to politely request he take a break?

That was me.

What about the guy who would walk home trying to hold back tears because he’s been practicing BJJ for over a half decade and still sucks?

Yep, that was me, too.

Quotes like this are a reminder that jiu-jitsu is not worth getting mad over. Even if you’re some tatted-up, jock purple belt and a white belt Miley Cyrus look-a-like taps you in front of your coach and the girl you have a crush on, it’s just not worth losing any sleep over. Life will go on. Women will still think you’re sexy. Grab a straw, suck it up, and move on with your life!

Remember, as I leave you with these words from Coach Tom: your value as a human being is not determined by what you do to random people in their pajamas.





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