When I went to college, I was told the connections that I would make there would last me a lifetime. I never really made any connections in college, though. I was commuting the whole time and was always rushing off campus to make it to jiu-jitsu classes on time.
Over the last 9 years I have made an incredible amount of connections through jiu-jitsu—from training partners to instructors, to people I have competed against, even people that refereed those matches. Jiu-jitsu has put me in touch with people I would have never met otherwise and has made my life much richer because of it.
I have met a surprising amount of PhDs in math, Army generals, all kinds of law enforcement, lawyers, Google employees, actors, NFL players. And since we have this huge thing in common it is really easy to relate to them even though we come from very different walks of life. We all know that jiu-jitsu is a great filter. It has a way of weeding out jerks. One of my instructors would always say, “Jerks don’t last in this sport.”
One of the most impactful connections I’ve made because of jiu-jitsu is my friend Kevin.
Over the last 7 years, Kevin has been my BJJ instructor, role model, boss, business advisor, life coach, landlord, and most recently during our Costa Rica camp surf coach. I met Kevin at a local school in New Jersey when I was a fresh blue belt. He was a brown belt and had just taken second at worlds. I walked into a no-gi class and had no idea of any of this. Kevin, like many BJJ guys, doesn’t look very intimidating (sorry, Kevin).
I had just won Grappler’s Quest at blue belt and was feeling pretty cocky. I thought I would show the new guy what’s up. I was quickly humbled, repeatedly. I became friends with Kevin, and when I heard he was opening a school I was waiting on the doorstep for the first class. If memory serves correctly, I was the third student to sign-up.
As I started Inverted Gear and needed help, the jiu-jitsu network—all people like Kevin—was there to help me. Photographer for the gis? One of my students had me covered. Website needs help? One of my blue belts had all the answers. Need help figuring out this accounting thing? One of the new white belts at my academy was an accountant. And since cash was extremely tight back then, I was able to pay them in a combination of cash, gis, and private lessons.
After all the traveling I have done and 8 years of training, I have made friends and connections not only in the US but all over the world. I hope to visit friends in England, Germany, Italy, Korea, and Guam by end of the year. Jiu-jitsu is growing rapidly pretty much everywhere, making it a great way to travel to interesting places and meet interesting people.
Every time I see a student shake hands with someone new, I can’t help but smile. In that moment, the jiu-jitsu network grows by one friendship. Soon they will talk about where they from and what they do. And maybe a few months down the road a jiu-jitsu plumber is stepping into the home of a training partner to help with a leak. It’s pretty cool.
How has the jiu-jitsu network impacted your life? I’d love to hear your stories.