In Symphony of Chokes and Locks

by Enzo Tacadao

I am one of the weakest and least skilled students in my class. Everything becomes quite hazy and confusing every single time. I guess that’s what jiu-jitsu is all about. It’s complicated. It’s never easy to learn. It’s demanding. That’s the beauty about it. That’s why I like it.

I started training in jiu-jitsu in October 2013, barely four months as of writing this entry. My curiosity about this art started when my high school classmate and I launched an MMA apparel brand, Bravest Clothing, in April. In an aim to understand the MMA and BJJ culture better, I decided to give grappling a peek. Same to other BJJ practitioners’ stories: I started to get hooked to the sport from the get-go.

Tapping Does Not Mean Giving Up

When you go to the ground, almost anything can happen. You become part of a symphony of chokes and locks. It’s uncomfortable in every sense of it. When someone is trying hard to choke you out or to break your arm or leg, it is when you realize you’re vulnerable and weak. This type of experience could have easily discouraged my conventional self, but instead, I learned to tap, to give up, and to give it another shot the next sparring session. This is why I attest to what Sam Harris wrote on his blog, “To train in BJJ is to continually drown—or, rather, to be drowned, in sudden and ingenious ways—and to be taught, again and again, how to swim.”

When drills and reps become too challenging and overwhelming, it is when you step up your game – no matter how weak or slow-learner you are. Your mind and body leave their comfort zones to cope with the flow. You exploit unfamiliar territories, those you once thought were too uncomfortable to achieve. When you step into unaccustomed situations, you become a better person. You leave your predictable self and become more proactive and progressive. It’s a natural phenomenon.

The Culture of Humility and Excellence

Another factor that made me love jiu-jitsu is its culture. BJJ has developed a positive counterculture. Humility and open-mindedness are synonymous to this sport. You may be toughest kid in your neighborhood, but when you go to the ground, you are just any white belt struggling for a pint of air.  Jiu-jitsu is akin to a different degree of life experience. Joe Rogan said it best, “When you do jiu-jitsu you can’t be full of shit.”

I am fortunate enough to train with some of the most skilled and humble BJJ practitioners in Manila. The camaraderie at Atos Philippines is just unbelievable. Whenever I need to polish some drills, everyone is willing to help out.  Prof. Ali Sulit is one fine and classy coach. He always means business; he never fails to motivate and inspire us.  Everyone in the academy is perpetually helpful and welcoming. I am just grateful to be part of a team that thrives in humility and excellence.

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On Improving the Brand, Fitness, Relationship, and Perspective in Life

After my first month in training, I’ve decided to take our apparel brand to the next level, to focus on BJJ as well, in addition to MMA. As of this writing, the brand is ironing plans to release BJJ-themed T-shirts in the next months to come. I realized that running a brand is like jiu-jitsu, you never stop improving. You just don’t stop.

Jiu-jitsu has a great impact to my fitness and health as well. When I started training, I was at 176 lbs or 17 lbs over my ideal weight based on BMI. Now, after barely four months, I weigh around 151 lbs. I’ve never been this healthier. This is my lightest weight in my life so far. I feel good.

My relationship with my girlfriend has become more interesting because of jiu-jitsu. She’s also training in BJJ now. I was able to convince her. She also got hooked into it. Our stale conversations have become more interesting. Our dates are usually about exchanging of training ideas, gym stories, diet plans, and even BJJ legend stories. We share some ideas about our plans on travelling around the country to roll in different gyms. Travel ala-jiu-jitsu. It’s just lovely.

Lastly, through jiu-jitsu I was able to push myself to the limits. I was not a fan of what’s outside my comfort zone. I hated pressure and failures. When I started training, these components are encountered on a daily basis. The sport has been helping me with my weaknesses outside the mats.

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