Why I’m Voluntarily Seeking Out Ass-Kickings.

Later today I will attend my first Brazilian jiujitsu (BJJ) class, a decision that I hope will lead to my ass getting kicked. Numerous times.

I’m 34 years old.

This will be the first martial arts class of any kind that I’ve ever taken.

My friend Scott, who recommended this gym, told me that I won’t get my ass kicked during the first class and said I should get familiar with tapping.

I had to ask what tapping is. As in, tapping out to stop the ass-whupping in progress.

Scott also advised that I choose sparring partners carefully, avoiding people who come across as friendly and then “turn into total psychos” on the mat.

A question I keep getting: Why am I doing this?

That’s fair. I am a proponent and practitioner of nonviolence both as a way of being and as a way of resisting aggression. I also have very little experience fighting. My only encounters as an adult were of the barroom variety.

One landed me in the ER, the other ended with a buddy using my frozen peas to ice the busted face he’d sustained in a street fight I singlehandedly provoked.

Side-note: Fights stopped when I gave up boozing 6 years ago.

I have a single driving motivation for why I’m starting BJJ as a relatively peace-loving adult:

I’m going to be very bad at it.

Yes, I also want to learn self-defense and develop discipline through a martial arts practice. But mainly I’m attracted by how bad I’m going to be, which offers 2 corollary benefits:

  1. I will learn more about humility.  Sometimes it’s good to be the most clueless person in the room. It’s uncomfortable and potentially embarrassing. But it’s also a great way to learn. I’ll be surrounded by people who can teach me.
  2. I (hopefully) will get better at something that will then become a skill.  Today, I don’t know how to punch or block a punch. I’m one hell of a fake slap fighter, but the practical applications of this skill are decidedly limited. Picasso wrote, ‘I’m constantly doing things I don’t know how to do so that I might learn how to do them.’ Every activity has a learning curve. Before reaching the hump, you’re terrible. But then you’ve learned a new skill.

Learning leads to growth. Growth produces feelings of satisfaction and fulfillment. Those things amount, as far as I can tell, to wellbeing that might be called happiness.

So…I’m going to learn to get my ass kicked.


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