#thisiswhyitrainbjj – I Get a Chance at Honesty

Published on by Samantha Faulhaber

Photo Credit: Jeff Chu @jeffreyschu

“The mats don’t lie.” You’ve probably heard this quote before. You can actually lie plenty on the mats. You can lie anywhere you want to - before, during, and after training. You can make up reasons why you lose or even deliberately hold back. People are just fairly adept at judging your skillful value and whether or not you’re lying to yourself. People also lie all the time. Just because we train Jiu-Jitsu doesn’t mean we’re all saints, as much as many would like to think. Please teach your white and blue belts this before they’re easily influenced by others.

What the mats do is at least give you a chance to be completely honest, even for a moment. In a world where we are taught to be polite and consider other people’s feelings before our own and do our absolute best not to make anyone uncomfortable, the mats are one of the most accessible proving grounds to experience raw truth. The physical act of grabbing another person and not letting go, and conversely the power that comes from learning how to make said person let go – those things mean something.

I think that’s why it’s such an alien but also cathartic experience for so many beginners in BJJ. As a culture we are largely tactilely deprived, subverted by an ever more convenient existence that Katy Bowman of the book Move Your DNA would argue are really ways to outsource the movement we actually need to make our bodies work right. Compound that missing piece of natural movement our DNA was designed to utilize for health and add endless days of smiling when you don’t mean it, holding back what you really want to say, and overanalyzing everything you did say and Jiu-Jitsu becomes a pretty damn appealing option. Go, grab, try your best, accept the consequences, and try again another day. No talking even needed.

Jiu-Jitsu lets us experience honesty of movement and effort in full and feel the benefits, risks, and rewards of that roller coaster with almost immediate feedback. Since you are the only person you can truly control, it’s up to you to take advantage. Feel for yourself what it’s like to truly commit to a moment and succeed or fail, sweep or be passed. (I’m imagining that feeling of trying to butterfly sweep someone and either you roll them over or they cut their hips and you watch your dreams die before your eyes.) You can’t know how hard the other person is really trying, and you can’t care, because your efforts are what are really going to shape you.

Each success or failure is training for your character. Crumble or persevere. Lie to yourself or face facts. Give up or try harder. Be the best-tested version of yourself that you can be. Embrace honesty and allow others to be honest right back.

“The last true Meritocracy left on earth is a jiu-jitsu or wrestling mat.”

-Frank Anthony, content creator and media consultant