Everything Until Now and Why I Started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Hi, I’m William. I come from a background of athletics—not an incredibly successful level of athletics but probably more elite than most. I played a variety of sports in high school and was initially average at most to finally above average at some due to work ethic and infatuation.

I played a Division 1 sport at a major University and rode the bench but loved my experience all the same. As difficult as it was to work as hard as I did and never see the “light of game”, it taught me a lot and probably better at many things because of it.

After graduation, I started my career in the engineering world where I would work a normal 9-5 job and for the first time feel like I was on my own path from those around me. No shared goals, camaraderie or struggle. The transition was difficult and left me feeling aimless. I knew my playing days were done so men’s league didn’t really appeal to me. I did try filling this void with several things: CrossFit, coaching youth athletes, pickleball, etc. with only temporary hits of whatever I was missing.

CrossFit provided a shared struggle and fueled my competitive edge. Coaching helped give me purpose and guide others on their journey. Pickleball and other pick-up sports scratched the itch of progressing on skills and playing sports for the fun of it. But CrossFit eventually left me feeling like “what’s the goal here?”, coaching was fun but I didn’t feel like I was continuing my journey, and pickup sports were too inconsistent to be anything more than a fair-weather hobby.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu had been a constant theme of many people I respected: Jocko, Joe Rogan, and Sam Harris, and then more surprising as of recent even Sean Avery and Mark Zuckerberg.

I’ve had 100% hit rate of introducing friends to it and converting them to people who now train. -Mark Zuckerberg

I always thought I would eventually want to try it but what? Mark Zuckerberg now rolls and has a 100% conversion rate for getting his friends to also try it?

The more I thought about it, the more I knew it was the right time to give it a shot.

It seemed BJJ checked all the boxes of what I currently needed in my life: it would give me a great workout. It would challenge the mind and set me on a journey of meaning to achieve something that can’t be bought and will only come with time and dedication. It would give me a community and an identity that I hadn’t had since my long-distant sporting career.

And perhaps, most importantly, (which I didn’t realize until recently), BJJ provides a practice for executing under stress. The ability to remain calm in chaotic situations and protect myself and others was certainly a skill in which I knew I was sorely lacking.

I decided in December of 2023 that one of my New Year’s Resolutions would be to give BJJ an honest shot. At least until I had forced a sparring partner to tap, as Jocko recommends. In January 2024, I approached my first class with a completely open mind, ready to embrace being a novice in something unfamiliar and potentially daunting. Despite having no prior exposure to martial arts except for my beloved 10-year-old Taekwondo experience, I was prepared to embrace the challenge.

This blog will be an attempt to capture my experience and journey as I start from nothing in the world of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. My goal is to document my struggles and my successes and what I learn along the way. I’m excited to step into the deep and, as Sam Harris’s thought-provoking piece suggests: learn to drown.

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