Jiu-Jitsu Letter

Third Place

First place is home. Second is work. And people need a third place. Examples are churches, coffee shops, libraries, parks, etc. It’s where people can spend time and build community. In the book, The Great Good Place, author Ray Oldenburg wrote that people need a third place for a balanced life.

Could your jiu-jitsu school serve as a third place?

At my school, it seems to be one for a few. For others, they’re happy to arrive one minute (or less) before class and then leave immediately when it ends. And then there are many on various points on the spectrum.

When I think about my friends from training, I see that we’ve become close because of our time off the mat. Sure, the drilling and rolls are bonding experiences, but it’s the conversations made before and after class that really build the friendships. And with friendship comes consistency. And with consistency, mastery.

While I understand some of my students just want instruction, I can kind of predict who will stay long enough to get to purple belt. And I think of purple belt as the point of no return. People quit at white and blue all the time, but it’s rare to know a purple belt that didn’t get to black belt. How sad it is to hear of a purple belt quitter.

The other day, I regretfully spent time on r/bjj (no link because it’s so toxic), and I read a post from someone who said he’s ready to quit when he’s no longer able to win scrambles. This is someone who said he’d spent 20 years on the mat and was now 40 years old. And he said when he can no longer play the same game, he’ll just quit. So instead of changing his approach to the game, he’ll just give it up. His instructor and school failed him.

Helio Gracie trained until he died. Why should any other student not have that same timeline? He changed his approach as he got older. He did whatever he could to stay on the mat. If you’ve really understood and received the benefits of jiu-jitsu, you would want to train forever. If you don’t, then you went about it the wrong way.

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