It’s easy to stop training. Just leave the gi in your bag, forget the bag under the bed, in the bottom shelf of the closet. If you’re lucky, there won’t be any emails or texts asking questions that start with “where.” You can just go back to what you used to do, before you did BJJ.
In a community I used to be part of before BJJ, I came across news that a member had passed away by suicide. The community is still reeling, and I myself, though on the shores, have felt the waves in my own self. Though I was rather distant from this person, theirs was a face I had grown familiar with, a name I knew. And now forever followed by verbs in the past-tense.
At the last competition, I saw several faces I hadn’t seen in over two years. Should I avoid them? I wondered, now wearing a shirt for a different gym. Would they accuse me of being a traitor? Pretend to ignore me? Would they even remember me?
The crowd gave me no choice, nearly crashing me into one of my old coaches and a couple teammates. The refrain I heard surprised me. “Good to see you!” they all said. “I’m glad you’re still training!” As if they had expected something different.
Sometimes though, I look at the news and I wonder if I should be doing something more important, something to help against all the destruction and injustice in the world. Something more significant.
A week later, I’m still receiving congratulations about my promotion to purple. My response is the same: “It’s all because of you all.” The white belts are the ones who always shake their heads,. so I wait until they stop. Look them in the eye. “Really. Thank you for helping me grow. I’ll do my best to help you as well.”
After all, that’s where “oss” stems from: the Japanese word “onegaishimasu.” The root is “negau” – a wish, a prayer, an asking of someone else for help, for assistance. An acknowledgement that none of this can be done alone.
If only, if only, if only.
If only someone had told her.
If only someone had told her – you’re not alone, you matter, it’ll get better, keep going.
“Who knows how many people you will impact,” our professor’s professor said during the promotion ceremony. “How many people you will inspire because you didn’t stop.”
Many of us are hobbyists. We train because it’s fun, because we want relief, an outlet, a place to be ourselves, to be creative, to just be.
We know that our names won’t be on a top ten list, or have any medals to associated with it; we will not leave any significant mark on the sport. Names like ours will only be known by those in the gym.
How lucky are we to know so many names, to roll with someone who knows ours.
To have someone to roll with.
To have you to roll with.
It’s hard to train, much less regularly – to come back everyday, to come back after an injury, life event, time away. It’s hard when training itself is hard, when life is hard, when relief is right there within reach.
It’s easy to feel alone, to feel like you’re just in the way, that you won’t be missed, it’s just one day, to feel like no one knows your name.
It’s hard to balance hope with acceptance of things out of your control. You can try that sweep a million times and never once hit it, pray as much as you want for that belt but be passed over, make all of the plans to go to class and get inexplicably derailed, be as safe as possible and still get injured.
It’s easy to give up. After all, it’s just a hobby. There’s a whole world that exists outside the gym.
But inside the gym, we’ll notice when you’re gone. Feel the waves left in your wake.
And in the echoes of your absence, a murmuring of “where,” your name, and hope formed in the present tense.
I always thought that the kanji for “onegaishimasu” looked like two people. Look at it, the second character here: お願いします The way I memorized it was two people connected at the top – a shared vision, a shared wish, a shared hope.
I hope you know this already, but in case you haven’t been told today:
Thank you for being here. Thank for you training. For being there when I was not in the mood so you asked if I wanted to drill or stretch instead. For testing my limits. For correcting my mistakes. Again. Again.
For training at the moment I was walking by the gym, for being at that competition, for speaking up and asking a question; you inspired me.
For being on the mats, day after day.
For coming back.
For knowing my name.
For sharing your name, your time, your hope, your determination, your failures, your successes; sharing in the tedium, excitement, and all the uncertainty – thank you for being here.
For being here for you.
You, who are significant.
Thank you. Welcome. Welcome back. Let’s roll.