BJJ is the Xanax of Martial Arts

So I work out at a local 24 Hour Fitness here in Los Angeles. To be sure, it’s less of a gym and more of a gender-neutral strip club. Think short shorts, spackled makeup and spray tans that make folks look like candied yams…and that’s just the dudes.

Anyway, there’s this behemoth of a personal trainer – roughly 6 ‘2”, 240ish, quite swole and quite moody by all accounts (Of course, every other person in LA is a personal trainer or a life coach. This poor sap’s main client seems to be some middle-aged Ukrainian woman who’s madly in love with him). A few weeks ago while running shitty sprints on the treadmill, I hear a commotion near the bench presses. Said swole trainer is getting chesty with an old man in his 60’s or thereabouts. It was one of those all-too-common altercations regarding whose penis is smallerwho was using the Smith machine first or some such nonsense. They start yelling at each other like angry chimps before the old dude finally stomps over to the front desk to complain. Considering this is LA and people get shot over parking spots I considered the exchange comical more than anything else.

Fast forward to a few days ago and I’m lost in some analysis of Tom Brady’s ageless vigor on my earphones while waiting for the pec deck (Let the record show I planned on using it for my rear delts). Out of nowhere, a rather unceremonious elbow to the shoulder shoves me to the side. I look up and see the aforementioned angry behemoth (by my 5’11”, 170lb standards anyway) running his mouth at me.

I pop an earbud and ask, “Hey, what gives?”

He brushes past me, sits down on the adjacent ab machine and shouts, “I said excuse me and you copped an attitude!” By the way, while he sounds like he’s from Inglewood, he clearly looks like he’s from Des Moines.

Now here’s where training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for almost 5 years (and getting boxed in the face for another 2) came in handy: No adrenaline surge, no fight or flight, not even anger. I was so calm I felt like I had just chased some Xanax with a tall boy again (those were some dark days, friends). In fact, I started laughing.

I then offered him a handshake and asked, “Is everything okay? This city can be rough on all of us.”

He pauses, squints then accepts my handshake and like some miracle starts to smile. “Yeah,” he somewhat sheepishly says with perhaps just a hint of embarrassment. I smile, give him a slap on the back and move on.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Had I trained in a more realistic fighting art like Systema he would have been writhing on the ground in a flash with a well-timed strike to his urethra (Fun Fact: while working as a dishwasher in my 20’s an old boss of mine swore he was in a band called Urethra Franklin. I still don’t believe him. My point is I have made poor life decisions).

Anyway, my overarching, longwinded point is that BJJ is such a physical combat sport that bumps and shoves are afterthoughts. It’s far easier for most of us to maintain our composure in tense situations because we spend hours getting thrown, strangled or just plain wrecked on a weekly basis. Perhaps most importantly, we are also a lot more aware of what’s at stake in a fight. Even if I managed to win a potential ego-fueled scrap against this gigantopithecus there’s little to no chance I was escaping unscathed, especially as a fair to middling blue belt whose favorite takedown is a collar drag (I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s not that effective against tank tops). It’s far better to remain Zen in such situations.

That’s one of many stories involving idiotic altercations I’ve been forced to calmly deal with on the mean, glittery streets of Los Angeles. Sadly, I have many more including trying to help a guy in a car accident who ended up being high on PCP. He also apparently tore his own eye out. I was busy talking to the cops, but apparently, it’s a thing. I did, unfortunately, knock someone out who assaulted me, but that wasn’t BJJ. He reached for a weapon. I felt like I had no choice. My point is I promise to choke someone out in the near future.

© 2018 Gable Gripes All Rights Reserved

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