People have occasionally asked me why I enjoy martial arts. Why on Earth, people wonder, would anyone want people pressing down on them, putting them in holds and chokes? Why would anyone let their kids train jiu jitsu? Isn’t there a high risk of injury? What about aggression? My only answer to questions like these, is to ask the person how much they really know about the philosophy behind martial arts.

Martial arts is not all screams and wild kicks. It’s not a barrage of mindless attacks that you saw in a Bruce Lee movie. It’s a methodical and complex language of self-defense, where you both perform and live by a set of core principles. My favorite principle of jiu jitsu is that of mushin no shin.


Zen and Daoist texts speak of a state of mind called mushin no shin or the mind without a mind. This mindset refers to a state of complete openness, where fear, ego, and anger cease to exist. The most difficult part to master in martial arts tend to be our own shortcomings. Are you quick to anger? Do you hate to lose? Do you give up easily? All of these weaknesses will come rushing up to the surface when training jiu jitsu, because jiu jitsu tests our personal limits, exposing us for what we are, regardless of how we see ourselves. We may feel on top of the world, and in the same instant we will be swept off of our feet and submitted.

Certainly, this can bring out a lot of frustration. It can make us feel worthless, and we risk being unkind to ourselves. But what’s incredible about jiu jitsu is how it tempers you like steel. With each lock, takedown or sweep, you learn not to get tangled up in your own efforts to be “great”. Instead, you eat your humble piece of pie and learn to acknowledge all of the potential your body could be.


It’s a favorite saying that a black belt is simply a white belt who got choked out too many times. When you fail, you learn. When you succeed, you learn. There is no way but up.

In this way, jiu jitsu can help us cope and overcome obstacles through perseverance. What is a mountain if you chip at it day by day? It becomes dust.

Through steady practice, jiu jitsu coordinates your body in such a way that you begin to see movements before they happen. It’s this interconnected network of movement and fine motor skills that impresses the untrained eye. But the truth is that there are no supermen or wonderwomen. There are only people who show up, open and eager to learn.

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