A Life Well Wasted


I borrowed the title for this blog post from a video game podcast that faded into inactivity far too soon. Growing up in the 90s and early 2000s, I often encountered a pervasive cultural idea of video games being a waste of time, and that all of his kids playing Nintendo and Sega Genesis would eventually have to put aside childish things and grow up.

Oddly enough, I’ve encountered similar reactions to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. When my injuries started to pile up, my family assumed that I would be stepping away from the sport for good. I had relationships—romantic and otherwise—where the person on the other end also assumed that there would be an ending point for my weird pajama hobby just over the horizon somewhere. I’d come to my senses and do normal things instead.

From anyone outside of the sport, BJJ looks like a profound waste of time. It spreads like the Nightmare King from Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland across our schedules, demanding that we visit the gym more and more frequently. It wears down our bodies. It changes how we think and how we behave. And it even changes how we look in many cases—a black eye here, some cauliflower ear there.

As far as being an activity that is productive for society as a whole, yeah, sure, jiu-jitsu doesn’t come close to volunteering at a soup kitchen or grinding away at a business idea or pitching your script idea (Little Nemo: Slumberland Strikes Back) to movie producers, but that’s not really the point. For those of us who aren’t making jiu-jitsu a career—and that is by and large the vast majority of jiu-jiteiros—the sport is supposed to be a beautiful and magical waste of time.

As a hobby, jiu-jitsu has a number of peripheral benefits like getting you active and connecting you to a community, but above all of those things is the core tenant of any hobby: It’s supposed to be fun. Most hobbies, whether you are playing Magic: The Gathering or watching professional sports, are fun first and foremost to their fans. We can wax poetically about the positive things that can come with a specific hobby, but a lot of times that just feels like apologetics to me, as if something simply being fun isn’t justification enough for our spending time on it.

Doing something because you enjoy it is a worthwhile reward worth pursuing and protecting.

We have hobbies because we like hanging out with the other people who enjoy those hobbies. We like the memories we create, and we enjoy the way we interact with our hobbies—physically, mentally, and even emotionally. We could make an argument about how jiu-jitsu is better than other hobbies, but that’s not necessary. All that we should have to say is that we enjoy it, and that it doesn’t hurt anybody (beyond the usual scope of sport).

Fun for the sake of fun is sadly a part of our lives that can be lost in adulthood. For me, being on the mat is like being a kid again. I never got those superpowers that I wished for, but I can feel pretty close to a Tekken character when I chain together my favorite moves and sweeping the guy twice my size might as well qualify me for Jedi status.

If we put away all of our childish things, I think we risk losing a piece of ourselves. That pure in the moment enjoyment and focus is a special thing that should be treasured. Who cares if it doesn’t help the stock market or give you another line item on your LinkedIn profile?

I don’t. So let’s just enjoy jiu-jitsu for what it is: Fun.