Monday, October 12, 2009

The Thinning of the Herd

Perhaps Kenny Bond's best work on this site to date:

In the harsh world of nature, the weak, the lazy, and the obnoxious are mercilessly eliminated. It’s a cruel culture of survival of the fittest. A lazy wolf, in the wild, would die of hunger. A slow gazelle makes an easy meal for a lion. This harsh system ensures that only the strong survive and breed, thus passing down only strong genes.

Over the years, I’ve realized that there is a similar system in place on the mat. Something about our sport magically weeds out A-holes, wimps, and douchebags. It’s very rare, in my experience, to come across a cocky, obnoxious, rude black belt. Despite the obviously violent nature of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, higher belts tend to be void of ego, friendly, and always willing to help out lower belts. Look at the character and personality of people like Renzo, Royce, the Machados, Marcelo Garcia, and my coach Renato Magno.They’re some of the toughest guys in the world and some of nicest as well. Did jiu jitsu make them this way or are naturally cool people the only ones that make it to the higher ranks?

My question is, “Who sticks with BJJ, and who doesn’t?

At Simi Valley Jiu Jitsu, where I instruct, guys walk in weekly to try our free class. I try, with zero accuracy, to predict which guys will still be around a year from now. Which guys will quit after being submitted? Which guys will be addicted after being submitted (me)? Which guys will I have to kick off the mat every night? Which guys will quit after the first injury? Which guys will become competitors? Which guys will make it to blue belt? Purple belt or beyond? After 14 years of doing this sport, I still can’t tell who will stay, and who will quit.

I see the most non-athletic, awkward students become dangerous purple belts. I see the tattooed tough guy quit after one class. I see the overweight, 40 year old become a lean master of the Kimura. I see the MMA aficionado, who can recognize an Omo Plata before their first BJJ class, quit after spraining a finger.

Maybe BJJ is too brutal for our “sophisticated” society where our kids are discouraged from physically defending themselves, lawyers put labels on everything warning of physical harm (e.g., "Caution: Coffee may be hot"), T-ball leagues won’t keep score to spare the losers from feeling bad, and being famous for doing nothing is just great. By brutal, I don’t mean physically, although that is part of it, but brutal in its honesty and transparency. The mat never lies.

Your opponent in a tournament doesn’t care if you’re a celebrity, had a bad morning, or drive a Ferrari. Your opponent is gonna choke you out if he can. And you’re not gonna win your weight class unless you’re the best on that day. The mat never lies.

Most promotions in BJJ are generally done in a nonchalant manner. You get handed your belt, you get a few handshakes, and then you’re back training. Why? Because everyone knows who needs to be promoted. It’s obvious. Your instructor handing you your new belt is just a formality. If you get promoted without deserving it, it will be apparent and embarrassing. The mat never lies.

The honesty and transparency in BJJ is a blessing for some and a curse for others. Take comfort in knowing that sticking with this sport for any length of time speaks to your inner strength, character, and personality. The mat never lies.

Remember that a black belt is just a white belt who never quit.

Wanna roll?


  1. What if BJJ is actually a really bad idea and I'm just too dumb to quit?

  2. Maybe the reason it's impossible to predict people's bjj longevity is due to the intrensic fluidity of the art. Granted, I've only been rolling for 2-3 years now. That said, each time I'm on the mat, my physical experience is unique to that day, that group of people, that partner. It's that aspect of BJJ that's overcome my normally very short attention span.

    Thanks for this post Kenny,


  3. Nice post. Every once in a while I wonder what my life would be like without jits, but I haven't considered quitting. Wonder if I will always feel that way-- 2, 5, 10 years down the road.

    Cheers to finding out :)

  4. Georgette:

    Thanks for reading the blog and posting your thoughts. I checked yours out as well - great material.

    I know you will still be training in 10 years!


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