Had a big storm come through the Tampa Bay area the past few days, so finally for the first time since I’ve been home from school this summer, WE HAVE SURF! The reason why I feel this post is relevant to my blog is due to the strong similarities between surfing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). If I had to make a rough estimate of the percentage of people from my Jiu Jitsu academy in Clearwater that surf, I’d have to say it’s about 50%. This is incredible especially considering that we live on the west coast of Florida on the
Lake, I mean Gulf of Mexico. For a great Gulf Coast surfing website, check out this website.
Went out for a great early afternoon session before lunch at Honeymoon Island (pictured above), and on the drive home I was reflecting on the allure of the sport of surfing and why so many of my peers at Gracie Barra enjoy it as well. I have been surfing since I was much younger (I did not start just because I started Jiu Jitsu), but I believe Gracie Jiu Jitsu has deep roots in surfing. The Brazilian coast yields spectacular waves, especially in Rio De Janeiro which is the birthplace of the sport. My professor, Eduardo De Lima, swears he never got any of the common skin diseases you can get from the mat because he was in the saltwater every day in Brazil surfing and swimming. Apparently I’m not in the water enough because I acquired ringworm while wrestling in high school, and MRSA from rugby, but I’ll take his word for it. Another interesting aspect of the surf/BJJ relationship is that the regions in the United States with the highest abundance of prestigious Jiu Jitsu academies are all located in coastal cities, particularly throughout California, Florida, and Hawaii. As I was rolling home from the beach in my F-150 bumping some Katy Perry and not trying to be caught by other drivers singing along (Don’t even try to pretend you don’t like Katy Perry, it’s every man’s guilty pleasure), I tried to figure out if the close relationship of Jiu Jitsu and surfing was just a coincidence, or if there might be a deeper explanation.
After much deliberation, I have reached a hypothesis that I am ready to disclose. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a sport that allows many different people from all walks of life to participate, and each person can attack the game in their own individual fashion. Some prefer to stay on top, grinding out decisions while going for chokes, while others may prefer to attack from the gaurd with flashy armlocks and sweeps. In surfing, some people like to rip up and down the wave on a 5’10” board while going aerial, and others like myself like to cruise for hundreds of yards down the beach on our longboards enjoying nature. No two waves are exactly alike, just like you will never have an identical grappling match. Every wave and each match bring new challenges, and you can use your creativity to find the best mode of attack for whatever comes up. If you slip up while surfing and make a wrong move, the ocean can be unrelenting and powerful, thrashing you about the sea like a ragdoll. The same also goes for Jiu Jitsu as your opponent is constantly lurking, just waiting for once false move to capitalize on. If done properly, harnessing the natural power of a wave to propel you across the sea can be a very rewarding and invigorating feeling like no other. However, the prospect of danger adds a thrill and mystique to the experience that makes the final product that much more extroadinary. In BJJ an effortless sweep with proper form, or nailing a six step armbar to perfection in sparring gives you the same kind of feeling as popping out the end of a perfect saltwater tube. Knowing your opponent is trying to do the same to you just adds satisfaction to it all. If I had to make a thesis statement, I suppose it would be “Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Surfing are perfect compliments as they both allow you to express creativity and skill while braving the uncontrollable variables that come with the respective dangers of the sports.”
Some places like the camp pictured above actually offer week long stays at resorts with world-class Jiu Jitsu training in the morning and evening, and surfing lessons during the day. One such experience is actually run by the Gracie family and is called the “Gracie Adventure Camp”, located in Costa Rica. I can’t help but thinking that’s what people like BJ Penn get to experience every day out there in Hawaii. Every day would be a vacation.
I was going to try and bring my friend who formerly trained in strictly no-gi to his first beginner gi class tonight, but unfortunately I work for a professional baseball team over the summer and their game got rained out, and now I have to go into work earlier. Hopefully tomorrow morning we will be able to hit the beginner class, and I will have a report on how it went. I’ve been swimming laps a lot trying to rehab the shoulder, but swimming while pushing a 10’ board through the water didn’t seem to help much today. Hopefully there aren’t any white belts tomorrow who are purple belts in the art of Kimura’s. Happy training, and surfing to all.