Jiu Jitsu as Tool for Unity
By: Daniel Frank
Wow, this world is sure getting crazy isn’t it? The year 2020 has come along and taken everything that most human beings thought was normal, and comfortable, and kicked it in the face. A global pandemic, an economy dive bombing, severe unemployment, stay-at-home orders, political divide, systemic racism and police brutality, murder hornets, massive protests, martial law- and we haven’t even seen the scorching days of summer yet. There is still an election this year(maybe?) that guarantees to divide this country even more. As the world seems to be tearing apart at the seams it has me thinking about how jiu jitsu has always been a great unifier. Jiu jitsu has always been a tool that has connected folks, no matter where they may stand in life or how the chaos of the world is trying to upend their lives and the lives of those around them. My hope is that jiu jitsu can be a force that continues to keep people united and can help to guide people through the darkness of uncertainty that they are currently in. It may even be a force that brings people back together.
I have read many books and seen many movies about a dystopian future where a small handful of people, usually teenagers, come to realize that the reality that they are living is not what they truly want. It is not what is right. They start to rebel against the system that has pushed them down and a movement begins to gather. There are ups and there are downs, small successes and enormous tragedies, but in the end the tiny group emerges victorious and the cruel and the oppressive regime is wiped away. The book or the movie ends. These stories are a reflection of life. Any human rebellion in history could point to one of these stories and say that it resembles their history and struggle. The difference is that the story or the movie ends, the struggle of human beings does not. There will be no next book or movie that shows the struggle to govern this ‘new’ society that has many difficult problems to address on a daily basis.
As human society grows larger and larger it becomes more diverse. So many different types of people are now living together and trying, really trying, to live a good life where everyone has what they need and life is grand and beautiful. While some people get close to achieving that goal others are pushed away from that goal and will never achieve it. The perfect world that these books and movies promised after the rebellion will not happen. As each and every group in the world tries to climb the ladder of success at the same time, some will be stepped on. Many groups have been stepped on repeatedly and even survived trying to be kicked off the ladder. Through this diversity, this inequality, and this struggle it is important to remember that we are all still one: human. Jiu jitsu has shown me that despite all of the differences of humanity it can embrace the fact that we are all human and can unify.
I had the advantage of starting jiu jitsu in a foreign country, seven thousand miles away from my comfort zone. Not speaking the language or understanding the instruction showed me that I could still learn it and enjoy it with people completely different from me. I didn’t have to look the same as my teammates. I didn’t have to think the same as my teammates, but we could still enjoy it together. As I learned more, and grew more accustomed to the group that I was learning jiu jitsu with, I branched out further to discover jiu jitsu in many different countries nearby. I traveled and found that there were even more people who loved this art form and were even more diverse than the group that I started with. I continued to train and traveled even farther afield and eventually would compete in the largest competitions in the world. I could see that people of different races, different nationalities, different sexual orientations, different political identities, different occupations, and different economic classes could put those differences aside to practice this great art form.
In our academy I see this diversity each and every day in the students who come to attend our classes. People of all sorts come to class together to learn and to practice. Two people, who may be on the opposite sides of every topic imaginable, can slap hands, fist bump, and work together to refine a technique and to get better at jiu jitsu. They can talk together and recognize that despite their differences they are all human. This might not be possible outside of the academy, but while they have that gi on and are sitting on the mats they are the same.
Unfortunately, jiu jitsu will not solve all of the problems that humans are struggling with currently. Jiu jitsu will not solve all of the problems that humans will struggle with in the future. Jiu jitsu can bring opposing sides together to understand each other though. It can help to open conversations between all sides and perhaps help to unify. When I am able to get back onto the mat with my students I will enjoy the fact that each and every one of them lives a different life. We all talk, think, and act differently-but through jiu jitsu we are all present and one.