My discovery of jiu-jitsu and the love for it.

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I am ever grateful for finding the wonderful art of jiu-jitsu. It has in a sense saved my life. For this story I shall take you on a journey to my teens, many years to the past.

I am roughly 16 years old. Suffering from depression, low self-esteem and lack of activity. I have just made some new friends at a new school, one of them is actively involved in martial arts and shows some of his mad jumps and kicks. I suspected him of being a ninja. One day I tell him: "That's some cool-ass shit you're pulling off, I wish I could learn something like that.", he then proceeds to help me find a karate club near my home. Thank you friend, without your push I would not be this person today.

I have practiced karate for about a year, perhaps a little longer. Why this is not such a traditional club was the fact that we did a lot of jiujitsu alongside the traditional air waving and "KIAI!" shouting (Of course it held many other things also). Training enthusiastically and participating in nearly every guided training one of my first mentors sees my enthusiasm for fighting and guides me to the city near by to start MMA.

This is a rather small club, so first I had to go through BJJ basics and then I could venture on to MMA. I still remember traveling for the beginners class with my bicycle, it was totally dark outside... winter was coming. But I did not mind it, for I was pursuing happiness.
Jiu-jitsu was love at first sight... Touch. But back then I had no idea of the creativity involved in the art. I was just trying to get the hang of the basics and as a scrawny tall kid my main goal was to survive. Although my survival was laughable, I hung in there. Defeat after defeat I was going on again and again. That is the life of a white belt. I then complete beginners class and start MMA. I make it my primary focus. A year into it or less, don't remember exactly I receive my blue belt and I'm filled with thrill for this new achievement.

Few coaches then open a new club in my hometown, because they want to focus more and bigger on MMA and have great visions for the city which has an opening for this area of martial arts. I move with them, because I have a shorter distance to travel and I was focusing on MMA. Although our old and new club have close relationships, as fighters are visiting one and another every so often. I get some responsibilities in our new gym, I start assisting in beginners classes and clean the gym now and then. I still remember my 18th birthday very vividly:
  • 6 AM: Wake up, eat and go for my morning run.
  • 8 AM: Go to school.
  • 10 AM: Go to school lunch and then go to the gym to clean it up.
  • 11:30 AM: Back to school.
  • 3 PM: Go home and eat.
  • 5 PM: Go train.
  • 7 PM: Go home, eat and spend some quality time with mom.
  • 8 PM: Study.
  • 11 PM: Sleep, happy birthday.
This was my life now and till then I couldn't be happier with my life. I had a purpose, a goal. This cycle goes on for a while, a year or so. Then my training partner and best friend decides he has had enough with MMA and transitions to only do jiu-jitsu. I am saddened, but I understood his choice. I continue the path for some years feeling a little lonely, as there was no-one anymore to share my progress with and watch someone else grow by me. The feeling of pushing each other forward was something I always appreciated greatly.

In 2011 my life took an unexpected turn. It was in the MMA Finnish Championships in the semi-finals that I broke my arm in the 2nd rounds beginning most likely from blocking a kick with insufficient technique. Before the 3rd round I tell my coach: "My arm feels funny, I think something is wrong with it." His response was pure gold: "Don't show it to your opponent." I put on my game face and say ok. Although I kept going, I was in survival mode during the 3rd round. I kept taken to the ground for I couldn't use my arm in the clinch, I was trying to get underhooks, but for some unknown reason at the time I had no strength in my arm. I was confused.
The match is over, I lose by points. Although I was happy, I went through a war and survived. We are taking off my gloves and I notice that my arm is really starting to hurt.

I stumble all adrenaline pumped and overly joyous into the locker room. Sit down and breath, enjoy the moment. A doctor comes to check my arm and I can almost remember the conversation word by word. The doc squats in front of me and takes a look at my hand and asks: "Can you move your fingers? Ok, good. Does it hurt when you move them?" I respond: "Nope." He pokes my arm around and gives his opinion: "Well there is some swelling and some tenderness so it is most likely just some muscle damage. Do you guys live far?" my coach says that we live about an hours drive away. The doc then continues: "Okay, well go there and go to the hospital for an x-ray, the worst you can expect is a fracture and I don't think it will be that big." Alrighty, great news! I go take a shower and it is a hilarious task to do with one hand. While in the shower I look to the guy in the other corner of the showers as he is facing the same problem as I am. Showering with one arm. He broke his collar bone during his fight. He looks at me and we lock eyes. Two disabled guys trying to shower. We start laughing at the comical situation and someone shouts we should wash each others backs (We didn't. You filthy bastard.).

I arrive at the hospital and the nurses are so curious about how I hurt my arm. The first nurse who assesses the situation even shouted a second one: "Come check this arm! It broke during something called freestyle wrestling.". I just sit there giggling awkwardly and grind my teeth as yet another person says MMA wrong (They are both very similiar in finnish language - Vapaaottelu/Vapaapaini).

I get to the doctor, she forwards me to the x-ray. I walk around the hospital looking like I've been fighting at the local grill and gain some confused looks from people, but I have this wide ass smile on my face. I get called back in the doctors office. I step in and before I could shut the door my jaw drops to the floor and I'm frozen solid. I see my x-ray on the computer screen and it's broken in the middle, like a twig gone snap. The doc tells me to step inside and have a seat. She tells me how we proceed from here and schedules me for surgery in a week.
My friend picks me up from the hospital and I go straight to his place. We watch the hockey world championships live from TV. Finland wins gold and people everywhere go crazy for the last time we won was in 1995.

I wake up in the recovery room all pumped up with morphine. Watching the clouds through a small roof window, they go by what seems like amazing speed. But I'm just super high on morphine. Oh and there's a piece of titanium and 6 screws in my arm. I spend the night at the hospital and go home in the morning. This all cost me almost nothing thanks to awesome health care in Finland. Now I begin my road to recovery. Slowly, but surely. During my recovery I had a lot of time to wander through my feelings and thoughts about MMA, BJJ and my excitements.

During the time spent inside my head and recovering I came to the realisation that I was most happy when I was doing jiu-jitsu. I noticed that I liked MMA, but did not love it. I was always anxious of the fights. But every single time when I trained jiu-jitsu or submission wrestling, I was ecstatic. I yearned for the next training and just wanted roll as much as possible. Now I had to explain my situation and feelings to my coach, the man who had put so many hours training me and accompanying me in my fights. It was no easy task mentally, but once I came to it he was very understanding of how I felt and I thanked him for everything.

This is when I started my jiu-jitsu life.

Now why do I love jiu-jitsu so much? As I mentioned in beginning I had low self-esteem and some depression. MMA helped me cope with it, but it felt more like I was focusing on my goal so much that I just suppressed my feelings deep down with all this action. With jiu-jitsu I became more confident of myself and was able to rid some of that depression. Not all of it, but some. But that is another story for another time.
I have always been a creative person. In my teens I enjoyed photoshopping art pictures and all sorts. I practiced some drawing, but that never took into air so much. In jiu-jitsu it felt as if my body was the paint brush and the match was the canvas. The more I rolled the more I understood the concepts of it. It was when I was pushing myself to the limits in hard rolling that I accidentally discovered some of my own techniques that worked extremely well in passing the unpassable guard. I was back in my game, pushing myself and my friend forward to strive perfection. The countless taps I and him did made our friendship one of a kind.

The constant tapping out to my coach, training partner and maaaaaany others made me accept my own mortality and in a sense faded my ego to a less jerky asshole. Note: less. I still had my bad days.

The egoless jiu-jitsu practitioner is one reason why I love the art so much. I am inspired by every single black, brown and purple belt who takes the time for his fans, these complete strangers and seems always to be in such a good mood.

When I'm rolling I have to forget all the troubles of the world, all of my anxiety that I have accumulated from constant barraging of information about humans destroying themselves, each other and their home planet. I have to forget this all, for otherwise I'm going to tap a lot. It is my stress reliever.

I loved the feeling after a good sparring, it was something of weightlessness. Walking home after a practice was just pure bliss. At one point I started to teach some classes and to pass my own technique to someone else and seeing them execute it near perfectly just lifts my heart.

When you bump fists and begin rolling with someone, you place your trust upon that person. It is like saying "I trust you and that you won't hurt me". Even if you don't speak the same language, you can read the person and his intentions. And when you have a good roll, you both smile in the end.

In jiu-jitsu it does not matter if you have the strength hercules, for technique conquers all. I love to watch lightweight guys competing in the open weight. Their technique and gameplay is just beautiful.

Thank you coaches, training partners and everyone in jiu-jitsu.
Thank you dear reader for coming this far on my story.