“Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant.” - Horace
I have been a deeply committed practitioner of the art of Gracie Jiu Jitsu for more than twenty-five years under the tutelage of world champion Professor Babs Olusanmokun, and have woven the Jiu Jitsu philosophy and lifestyle into the fabric of my life.
No doubt adversity is defined by each individual. And how each individual deals with that adversity and its posed challenges is certainly as varied. In my humble opinion weathering those challenges, whatever they may be… physical, economic, health, relationship… requires consistency, patience, and digging deep to get results.
From a Jiu Jitsu training perspective, we intentionally place ourselves in compromised, uncomfortable positions, and train to work the problem, develop patience and technique, driven by a mindset to ALWAYS fight forward and NEVER GIVE UP. At times it feels like trying to run up a down escalator. No chance of reaching the top without extra hard work. Without that additional effort you’ll simply remain on the lower half of the escalator and, should you quit or fall… enjoy the express ride to the bottom.
As we began to set the framework for the foundation, I grappled with what impactful and relevant contribution I might make to “the cause”. So I took to task and decided, if I had fifteen minutes to spend with my “yesterself”… what would I say to me?
There is so much that plagues us... religious differences… racial differences… sexual orientation… ecological devastation… deep economic division... a world where too many have nothing to lose.
To say the world I grew up in was unique would be a gross understatement. By the nature of my father’s career path I was exposed to an enormous swath of the best and worst of humankind. I was the product of a high profile, interracial marriage in the 1950’s during a time in our country’s history where, to make a choice like that, was a bold, inspirational, and incredibly risky statement.
Our home was an epicenter of the Civil rights movement. It was a sea of artistry, endless strategizing, content creation, and calls to action. Civil rights, The Peace Corps, the plight of the Native American, We Are the World, USA for Africa, UNICEF… Art, activism and true sacrifice in a very real context. Affluence juxtaposed against never ending awareness of the human condition and suffering and endlessly working to make a difference.
The most prevalent common denominator around me throughout my childhood and young adulthood was the unrelenting tenacity of those committed to advocating change, regardless of their socio-economic status. The fortitude and will to never bow to adversity even when those challenges appeared to be near impossible.
Whether it be a campaign to change policy or personal struggle, a true requisite for the battle is the belief that the fight is worth it and belief in yourself that it can be done. Some are born with that belief, others need convincing, but a requisite none-the-less. I grew up surrounded by larger than life figures that, unavoidably forced me to constantly take measure of my own sense of self. Influencers that would simply not surrender.
By melding the Jiu Jitsu methodology and philosophy with these personal life experiences, I am striving to deliver a new and optimistic perspective to young adults across racial and economic boundaries that partake in our foundation’s programming.
There are certainly no problems quite like one’s own, but we must constantly remind ourselves of the gifts we’ve been given, whatever they may be… Reflect on how lucky we might be as two thirds of the world’s population walks barefoot and goes hungry.
Whatever your path is... whether you choose it or it chooses you... whatever you have drawn from your life up to this very moment... carry it out there with you and make a difference SOMEWHERE. But most important… BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. As you move through life it helps to remind yourself that while perhaps you may not have an affect on a million people... you may have an affect on ONE that does.
Always fighting forward!