The Octagon Shoutout Experience
After more than a decade of training jiu-jitsu, there aren’t many “firsts” left for me, but I had a big one recently: my jiu-jitsu instruction got a post-fight shout out at UFC 241.
Khama “the Deathstar” Worthy took a fight on four-days notice and scored an upset knockout and performance of the night honors. Khama is a longtime friend and training partner, and he owns the gym where I run the jiu-jitsu program: The Academy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Old school fight fans from the region will know it as the Pittsburgh Fight Club.
Before I get too deep into what I really want to talk about, let me clarify a few things. Jiu-jitsu had very little to do with that fight, and I also have very little to do with Khama’s success. We have trained together for years, but he has also spent much more time under far better coaches. But, one thing Khama has in spades is heart, and it was very generous of him to wrap me into his coach credits with a plug for “Marshal ‘Law’ BJJ.”
Khama has been trying to make Law a thing for my nickname for some time, and like fetch, I hope it won’t happen.
At any rate, Khama’s success brought something powerful into focus for me: Even though many of our goals in jiu-jitsu and in combat sports in general are highly individual (belts, competition, fitness), we should not overlook the goals that involve our teammates. There are not many feelings like seeing someone you care about achieve something great, especially when you shared in even a small fraction of their journey.
When Khama scored his knockout, several bars around Pittsburgh erupted in screams. For the Khama fans watching at homes by themselves, I heard a few stories of flipped furniture and concerned calls from neighbors. Even today, several days after the victory, the energy of the gym is heightened. It’s a tangible buzz of sharing in the moment and having a deep feeling of genuine joy for someone else.
I have written a lot about what it means to be a good teammate and how to be a better training partner, but I have not seen anyone touch on thinking about your goals in terms of what you can accomplish as a team or through one of your training partners.
You don’t need to be an instructor to have this experience, you just need to be a training partner who takes a genuine interest in seeing others succeed. That success could be a major competition victory like Khama’s, or maybe it’s a belt promotion, or maybe it’s a significant personal milestone for that individual such as losing weight or coming back from an injury.
If you make yourself available for drilling, if you’re regularly at open mats, if you’re encouraging and supportive, you have a reason to feel like you have a stake in someone else’s success. That’s different from credit--we’re not talking about you being responsible for or the cause of another person’s rise--but it is meaningful.
And I think it’s something everyone should mix into their training. Hit the mat for yourself and your goals, but also add in a few dashes of hitting the mat for your training partners. They need you in a myriad of ways, and you’re on a journey together.