My Life and Ju Jitsu
By Jennie Croft
When I tell people I practice Ju Jitsu, a lot of them get visions of Bruce Lee defeating a bad guy in one of his films, or they try to demonstrate karate chops and kicks.
It strikes me that people are very ignorant of martial arts. People seem to make jokes about Ju Jitsu or put it down because they don't understand it. I always get remarks like "Ooh, better not get on the wrong side of you!" or "Yes, I forgot you can't be defeated." Or there is the frequently asked question…"Why spend two hours getting thrown around a mat in pyjamas?"
I'm not sure whether this ignorance comes from fear or admiration to be honest, but wherever it does come from, I can rise above the comments because only I know how much Ju Jitsu has enhanced my life in the three years I've been studying it.
I don't sing my praises where my Ju Jitsu efforts are concerned, yet the mere mention of the art sends people into this whole Bruce Lee frenzy. The truth is it takes a long time and a lot of effort to even be a patch on the father of the Art.
Having said that however, I was not sure what to expect when I joined my club. There were several reasons why I took up Ju Jitsu. The club I am with in Grimsby was well recommended as my uncle had trained at that club with his wife years ago. He had achieved 2nd kyu (brown belt) status, but stopped training because of an injury from a road accident that became too much for him to cope with. He still lives by the philosophy he learned through his years of training and says "That's one thing that never goes away. Ju Jitsu is not just self defense, it's a way of life."
I never really understood what he meant by that until I joined the guild. I chose to study Ju Jitsu because, apart from the fact I had already had an interest in martial arts for some time, I was feeling very low self esteem. I didn't get out much and was very shy and introverted. I needed something to stop me from twiddling my thumbs. So Uncle Noel got on the phone to the head coach Lindsey Evans and told him he might have a new recruit on his hands. I went along for my first session, feeling very nervous. Looking back I can't see why, because these days, in fact shortly after I joined, I felt like one of the gang.
So here I am three years or so down the line, now a 3rd kyu (green belt). What pearls of wisdom can I pass on to others? Well, for anyone considering taking up martial arts, I say definitely go for it. The sense of achievement alone is worth the occasional bump and bruise. I'm not talking about gaining a different color belt. I'm talking about the sense of 'self' you can gain from throwing people around.
My confidence has soared since I began training. It gave me the confidence to go out and do other things I'd always wanted to do, such as joining exercise classes full of strangers. What used to hold me back was that I always wanted someone to go with me. I got over that so these days I don't need anyone to hold my hand for any reason whatsoever.
I also vaguely remember a time when everything used to get on top of me and completely stress me out, but I have since achieved a great sense of focus and relaxation through channelling my energies in this new direction. What can be relaxing about getting thrown to the ground like a sack of potatoes, I hear you ask? The truth is I don't have any wise words of wisdom for you on that; you'll just have to trust me. I can reveal that my work and social life have improved no end in recent years and my ability to communicate with others has improved in leaps and bounds.
I must also confess that it is true what my uncle says: you don't leave your Ju Jitsu on the mat as you bow to leave it. Deep down it stays with you and continues to crop up in abstract, in all kinds of situations. This is hard to define though. I know at one time people could walk all over me and I couldn't help but let them, but as if from nowhere I began to stand my ground, verbally. Obviously standing your ground is very important in self defense, but it does not just apply to the physical aspect of your life being threatened.
Part of learning the art of Ju Jitsu is passing down your own knowledge to beginners. This is where I feel I have learned the most. It's amazing to see the fear in their eyes when they try something new and remembering that I was like that once. I find that by teaching others I have learned to put them at ease and learn as much, if not more from them as they might learn from me, which is basically what fostering the art is all about. Another great sense of achievement can be gained when someone is struggling with a technique and suddenly they can execute it with ease and confidence. It's highly satisfying to feel that you, as an instructor, had something to do with that.
In all honesty, I have had knocks, bumps, bruises, and injuries. I lost count of them all a while ago, but 'what doesn't kill us makes us stronger' as they say and I wouldn't trade in a few wounds for the great sense of purpose and confidence it has given me and continues to build.
Jennie Croft has been a member of the Ju Jitsu Guild for over three years. She is a final year degree student, studying Journalism and based in Lincoln, in the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside halls of residence in the United Kingdom. She was originally from Grimsby, where she began her studies in Ju Jitsu.
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