Friday, September 12, 2014

"Jiu Jitsu is a douche bag filter?"

This meme has been circulating on Facebook and has garnered thousands of likes:

Lol, Eddie. Good one! But, while those who are not Eddie Bravo fans might find some irony in the messenger of this post, we tend not to dispute the message itself. 

After all, many of us have said similar things. I know I have. I've seen lots of douchey people start jiu jitsu and they tend to not stick around long. There's something to be said about getting tapped out over and over again. When you tap, you are acknowledging that your partner has the power to dislocate one of your joints or render you unconscious.  If your ego can't handle it, you leave. As for those who do stick around, they tend to become less douchey over time. Some of the worst guys in the beginning can become downright tolerable after a few months. Soon they might even become your friends. 

But this isn't unique to jiu jitsu. When you are new to anything that is skill based, you are going to suck. Before starting jiu jitsu, I was a competitive swimmer and swimming is one of the most technical sports in existence. For the newbies, it is simple - you learn how to swim effectively or you sink. Many people quit before they become proficient at swimming. Does that make swimming a douche bag filter? Certainly, the daily grind of 2 a day workouts and constantly losing to other swimmers or the clock itself is too much for some people and they quit. Does swimming filter these "douchey" people out? Does swimming weed out the weak-hearted newbies who can't face it when they lose?

Um, no. It's not that simple. In fact, I find it pretty problematic to associate athletic skills with character traits.

Last year's sexual assault allegations from Team Lloyd Irving are an extreme example, but they make a clear point: being really good at a certain skill means 1 and only 1 thing - that you are really good at that skill.

Jiu jitsu (along with swimming, oil painting, and playing the violin) weeds out a lot of people, douche bags included. But those who become hooked on the activity and ultimately stick with it aren't any superior to those who decide it's not for them.

In my own observations, yes, some of the douchiest people get weeded out in the beginning of jiu jitsu training. But you know what else happens? Some people become douchier with time. Some people who survive being the nail with persistence and humility go on to abuse new blood as soon as they get a chance. And as with any other sport or activity, a minority of those in authority go on to misuse their power.

It it easy to pat ourselves on the back and say - "See! I have achieved X rank in jiu jitsu. This proves I'm not a douche!" But it's important to think critically about our own actions and the actions of those we support and follow. Are we using out jiu jitsu in a way that positively affects others? Self awareness and critical thinking are our real douche bag filters. It is up to us to use them.