Whether you're a fighting fan or not, you'll be blown out of the water by the highlight reel of the brothers Kade and Tye Ruotolo at the BJJ Abu Dhabi trials in San Diego. They're not even teenagers and they are incredible on the mats, so fast, so dangerous. It is amazing to see someone so young be so dedicated and advanced in a sport I consider to require an enormous amount of strength and skill. You can learn jiu-jitsu but to practice it to the standards of these twins, much less fighters my age, you need to put in some serious time and effort.
And therein lies the rub. It had me thinking about my own game. Slowly I've been putting the time and the reps in to map my own plan of attack and what I've lacked was speed. What so inspired me about the Ruotolo was their quickness, like little vipers. In the back of my mind, I always knew jiu-jitsu was not necessarily meant to be a smash-and-grab method like most meatheads might have you believe MMA is all about. In Brazilian jiu-jitsu, there is an enormous amount of calculated explosion, though. Sure, there are chokes and throws and special moves, but the victory is in the details. Bruce Lee said it best and I adopt the idea more and more every time I cross it: "Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless - like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend."
Off the mats, it's easy for people to focus on the power of the crashing wave. What we forget is how water can be powerful and fluid. We're a culture of push, though. We're a culture of Go, and Mine. We recklessly attack screaming, rarely pulling back to calculate and defend. It is Entrepreneurial Selfishness when we're too distracted and concerned with furiously building our own story, we forget to write some other characters and plot points down. More than achieving goals, life is about embodying a philosophy that warrants more than crossing off bullet points and racking up medals. Your mind makes up everything around you and when you push too hard against the Universe, mindlessly carving a singular path for yourself, you're bound to get swept on your ass. It's like trying to hurt the ocean. Dropkick it all you want, the saltwater can't shed a tear.
Stephen Cope's Yoga and the Quest for the True Self has a story about The Buddha that goes along with this idea. The Buddha said, "The boat is not the opposite shore-it is just the vehicle we use to get there." Cope followed, "When we're in midstream, we must cling to it as if our lives depended upon it. When we get to the other shore, however, it can be completely relinquished." It's similar to the idea of a child's security blanket. We attach ourselves to things that define our identity, time and space. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, it's natural. False identity comes when we cling to the wrong vehicle and strangle it for too long. Like the Ruotolo twins, crash when it matters, flow when you can.
Let's channel the Matrix for a second. If you take into account everything you've ever been told, it makes total sense that the idea of being Better would result in a bigger home, bigger salary, trophy spouse and a big, fat, stupid grin on your face, content in your power and freedom. You think that's air you're breathing now? Why? Cause that's what you've been told. You fight tooth and nail to go further down your own personal rabbit hole, rarely slowing to check your surroundings. We're nothing without questions and perspective. We're nothing without our boats. Now, more than ever, I'm finding myself sailing to understand what Better means. What is self-improvement? Is it putting in extra hours for my shifts to run smoother? Is it drilling dive passes in jiu-jitsu until they are second-nature? Is it doing everything I can to make the people around me closer to Better? There is a world of knowing and learning right outside the circuits of that computer in your head. It's not only about you, but you are the only one that can do what you can.
The irony is in the great Bukowski quote, "The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.” It seems pessimistic to pin the tail on the intelligent and doubtful although I believe the real point is that we all can honestly know nothing. It's all relative and the sentiment goes for the concept of Better. What can be done, though, is to best define your own idea of Better. Is it health? Is it a eulogy that reads like a resume or the X-Games? Is it a dozen children or a dozen cats? Is it land? Orgies? God?
Get clear on how you can be like water. Find the balance. Life demands you crash and flow.
Until next time...
I explode into space.