I’ve heard this a couple of times by now, and I imagine you have as well: someone will bring up jiu jitsu’s violent, sometimes thuggish past, along with some variation of ” I’m tired of people pretending that we are following an honorable samurai code or something…”. It’s interesting, because I find usually when people bring up jiu jitsu’s violent past, it’s typically to justify bad behavior in the here and now. It’s sort of like personality tests where someone will justify their (whatever undesirable trait) as a part of that personality classification- whether it’s Myers Briggs Test, Enneagrams, the DISC, Astrology… you name it.
“Oh, I ignored you because I’m an introvert”, “Oh, I don’t follow through with plans because I’m a type 6”, “Oh I robbed that bank because I’m a Capricorn”. You get the idea. Rather than understanding that undesirable trait as a shortcoming they should strive to amend, or at least be conscious of, there is this strange pride in these undesirable behaviors as if it’s an affirmation of their own classification.
I kind of feel the same way about bringing up jiu jitsu’s violent past. Many have pointed out that jiu jitsu practitioners were seen as thugs and bullies, that dojo storming was a thing- there’s even a story where some of the Gracies jumped a catch wrestler after a popular match (if you click on the link the story is in the middle of the page, second to last paragraph in the biography section). There’s no denying that there are some less than noble moments in the history of jiu jitsu.
However, just because something has a particular past doesn’t mean it has to, or even should, pre-define its future. I mean, there’s some evidence that suggest surgical chainsaws were invented for difficult childbirths. And while that procedure has thankfully gone the way of the dinosaur, we still use surgical chainsaws for different, slightly less cringe inducing operations. Yes, jiu jitsu has a rough past in some respects and while we can acknowledge that it does not mean it should dictate our future conduct in, and outside of the art.
Just as the game of jiu jitsu evolves, so can our conduct- we can strive to do better, setting an example that hopefully the next generation will take to heart and continue the upward trend. Will we still be imperfect creatures, making mistakes and poor decisions as we run around this spinning rock in space? Of course, but I believe we also have the capacity to move the needle forward towards those principles of honor, sportsmanship, and other laudable qualities that we strive for.
Just some thoughts for the day- have a great weekend everyone!