By: Joe Hannan
2018 began with goals for my martial arts life, one of which was to compete three times. With the second behind me and the third at some undetermined point in the future, I’m a bit unmoored and dejected. The physical and metaphorical hunger lit a fire in me that I hadn’t felt in years, and when it ran out of competitive fuel, I found myself in the dark.
If you’re experiencing the same feeling and hoping for an answer, you can stop reading now. I don’t have one. I’m still in the dark. But I’m still showing up the same days and the same times, every week.
I make a living with words and I’m lucky to do that. The way I write and the way I roll are more interlocked than you might think. Most Sundays, I don’t know what the hell I’m going to say when I sit down to write this post. I mostly stare at the treetops outside my window, drink lots of water, and occasionally study the tattered white belt that hangs next to my desk, hoping the weathered length of cotton still has something to teach me.
I show up at my desk and I wait for the words to find me. Some days, I get pages. Others, I get a paragraph that I will ultimately delete the next day. But I always show up. As Steven Pressfield so eloquently says in The War of Art, I sit down to do my work and I hope that the muse will sit on my shoulder and tell me what to say.
I believe that this is how success in writing and in jiu jitsu is built. There are days when both feel like a chore. There are nights when both are too real and too painful. But I know that I have to lean into the pain and get the work done, whether it’s a project for a client, a piece of fiction, or an open mat.
The Sunday morning open mat epitomizes that. In the two years I’ve been at Princeton BJJ, the open mat has included more or less the same core group of people that I think of as The Hard Core. There are mornings when we’re sleep deprived, stressed about an upcoming work week, or sweating booze from the night before, but we count on each other to be there. And so we show up.
I showed up this Sunday morning for no other reason than I had told a couple of members of The Hard Core that I would be there. I sat down to write this Sunday night because I said I would write blog posts for the school. Maybe the rolls this morning are building toward something. Maybe they aren’t. Maybe this post will make an impact. Maybe it won’t.
But I’m better from having rolled, and I’m better for having written. I do both because I said I would. I do both because both are parts of who I am. On days like today and nights like tonight, that’s enough to get my through these blue belt blues. I hope it can be for you as well.