Let no act be done without purpose Marcus Aurelius

I have been given the rare opportunity to teach Jiu Jitsu for a living. This is a privilege that I wake up everyday grateful for, and a responsibility that I hold dearly. I understand how rare it is to be employed through a labor you genuinely love, and one which can be used as a vehicle for positive change in the lives of others. Even rarer still, I am often reminded of the quality of Jiu Jitsu I have learned, and the opportunity to have learned it.

Nearly 7 years ago, while working as a strength and conditioning coach, a friend suggested that I try learning Jiu Jitsu at the school right down the road from my house, and it wasn’t until some enlightening years later when I realized the fortune of having that school be led by Ricardo Almeida.

Fast forward to today

I spend the majority of my time practicing or teaching this beautiful art. As an instructor, my goal has always been to use Jiu Jitsu as a vehicle to help our students achieve their goals, whatever the case may be. I have yet to find a better vehicle for growth, and the moment I do I will certainly pursue it with the rivaled fervor that I approached Jiu Jitsu.

Until that day comes, however, I can think of no more worthwhile aim than pursuing mastery in this craft while transcending one’s own limitations.

I have been fortunate to know many successful people. Many of which, most outside my immediate area will never hear their names. As an aside, I think these are the people that are changing the world. Not the politicians or public figures, but the silent heroes among each and every community who silently serve its greatest good.

I have often said that I didn’t think the world needed a Messiah, just a few ten thousand good men and women spread across the globe with the shared aim of service, with their circles of influences neatly connecting.

Of all the successful men and women I have met in my travels, there have been few, if any, that have directed my path as much as one of my instructors, Brian Walter. Through unparalleled technique, competency, and an ability to move toward simplicity, as both an instructor and a student he has always been something at which to aspire. He has been instrumental in my learning all aspects of this martial art- from uke, to student, to instructor. Beyond his incalculable influence on my ability to perform Jiu Jitsu, his greatest gift in my life has been observing his leadership. A man whose impressive words pale in comparison to the example he sets through action, he has silently brought together a community that so many call home. Of all the lessons I have learned from this man, the most pressing in my mind is that which he taught me this week.

I asked him what his goal was for his students. What purpose did he wish Jiu Jitsu to serve in their lives, and how do we most efficiently get them there? Through a wonderful Socratic dialogue led by a man who has probably never read Socrates, I came to see that our student’s goals are vast, but can all be met in the same way.

He simply stated the goal is to bring each student from white belt to black belt, and then he told me why.

Let’s look at the most common goals of our students, and see if achieving black belt will help them achieve their aim.

  • If the student’s goal is to lose weight, will achieving black belt reach this aim? Yes.
  • If the student’s goal is to become more confident, will achieving black belt reach this aim? Yes.
  • If the student’s goal is to learn how to defend themselves, will achieving black belt reach this aim? Yes.
  • And so it went. Every possible goal of the student would be met by bringing them from white to black. This was the “what” that facilitated their “why”.

    As an instructor, the goal of having all of my students achieve black belt had always been an implicit aim. Now, it is time to make it explicit. Whatever the student’s goal, why ever they are here, helping them achieve technical mastery of this craft and the lifestyle which ensues, will bring them to where they want to go. In a world so full of the intangible, I officially had a quantifiable measuring stick with which to measure the success of my students.

    But isn’t this an obvious goal of the instructor?

    I am reminded of the old zen parable:

    “At first, I saw mountains as mountains and rivers as rivers. Then, I saw mountains were not mountains and rivers were not rivers. Finally, I see mountains again as mountains, and rivers again as rivers.”

    Life is not without lessons!

    And so I conclude this writing with one final plea.

    I implore you, as a practicing martial artist, to pursue your black belt. Go to bed early. Stay up late. Whatever it takes. Just keep going.

    By becoming a black belt, you will become whatever it is you wanted to be in the first place, and Jiu Jitsu will have served its aim.

    “Become a millionaire not for the million dollars, but for what it will make of you to achieve it.” – Jim Rohn

    If you liked this article, you will probably also like my article on Why I train Jiu Jitsu and the Ten Important Life Lessons From Martial Arts