Jens Johnson – Why I train BJJ

“Nonetheless, Jiu-jitsu has given me the ability to re-learn how to learn and initiated my path to truth”

When an undersized Royce Gracie wore his gi and shocked the non-jiu-jitsu world by winning UFC 1, combat sports changed forever.  It is easy to talk romantically about jiu-jitsu.  Tracing the origins back to the Gracie brothers in Brazil, the art of jiu-jitsu has many tales that tell like folklore.  It is the crossroads between violence and poetry. 

Jiu-jitsu transformed my life.  The “gentle art”, as it’s commonly known in the martial arts world, has allowed me to explore my mind, body, and spirit further and more profoundly than any previous endeavour.  Perhaps this is due to my prior ignorance to the art and the learning curve associated with the technicality of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and the struggle and suffering that takes place in learning this craft.  Perhaps it is luck; that I happened to join the gym at the perfect moment in my life and fell into a transition that I had no control over.  Perhaps it is the result of finding a physical activity that, for the first time, held me accountable for my every action and inaction, forcing me to commit myself in the truest form.  Perhaps it is all three.  Nonetheless, Jiu-jitsu has given me the ability to re-learn how to learn and initiated my path to truth.

Jens Johnson on top drilling a choke.

For me, jiu-jitsu imitates life.  It makes you feel every emotion; strong, happy, confident, sad, nervous, angry, humble, weak, embarrassed, lonely, grateful, welcomed, loved.  There is no hiding on the mat, there is only truth.  When I step onto the mat, I am cognizant of all the diverse personalities that chose to walk through the door.  That’s what jiu-jitsu means for everyone when they start.  It is a choice; a choice to better oneself for their own personal reasons.  When I look back to my first class, it is astounding to observe the positive impact that jiu-jitsu has had on every aspect of my life. 

They say in jiu-jitsu that “there is no losing; there is only winning and learning,” and after reading Chris Matakas’ The Tao of Jiu-Jitsu, I am often find myself pondering his words about learning as it reads, “There is no more valuable skill than studentship. The farther we go down one area of human understanding, the more we see the corollaries that all activities share. Everything I do for the rest of my life, all the skills I acquire, will be made possible because of my time spent on the mats. It has revealed a symbiosis between all things that I never knew existed.”