Front Toward Enemy
This week I had the pleasure of hosting Brian Jones, a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt under Carlson Gracie, Jr., and owner and head instructor of Valhalla Academy in Kentucky.
It is always pleasure getting to pick the brains of guys who have been at their craft for as long as Brian has, and I am always blown away by how applicable the concepts of art are across the spectrum of human experience; whether it is jiu jitsu, painting, music, or otherwise, there are certain principles that find consonance with each other, like notes in a scale.
Over the past several weeks, I have been preparing for a move out onto 5 acres of wooded property I recently purchased. The space I will be sharing with my wife and dog is approximately 8x32 feet in total, and must serve as bedroom, library, office, kitchen, and fortress- anyone who has lived in a tiny house or other very limited space knows that the motto “a place for everything and everything in its place” is the holy writ. Every possession must be weighed and found fit in order for it to deserve its place in this little structure. If it hasn't seen use even for a week, it is probably not essential, and is given away or discarded.
This process is, for me, one of extreme catharsis, as my material possessions are whittled down to only those things that I feel are completely necessary, and this act lends itself to a certain simplicity and focus that can be felt in living by the tenets of minimalism. My slogan for the year is “less stuff, more life,” and the decision to move into this space was motivated in large part by the desire to eliminate many of the distractions and illusions that for me come along with “comfortable living.”
During our many conversations over the last few days, one of the things that Brian touched on is the concept that as a younger man, it is good to explore and undertake many different things; try out new skills, jump from one activity to the next after a brief exploration of a year or so, and continue to chase a broad spectrum of experience within our lives. This is like the novice and intermediate level of jiu jitsu, in which one is essentially trying to take in as much information as he possibly can, like a sponge, indiscriminately, and trying it all out within the structure of his game.
Later on, like in the in the higher belt levels, the process is about refinement. Just like the alchemical process (which is, of course, what jiu jitsu and any other valuable pursuit is all about), the many different elements are distilled and purified through a series of operations that seeks to bring about a simplicity and unification of all these elements into a single consonant resonation- the human becomes a living shrine to those things that he has deemed holy during his brief time on earth.
At one point in the conversation Brian said:
“You’re not going to get really good at your jiu jitsu unless you start to cut out some of these other elements. You have to be like a claymore mine- all the explosive power has to be directed toward something, or it just burns up in a flash like a mound of gunpowder.”
In my life, I have been and done a lot of different things, even in the thirty two odd years I’ve been here. I have put on a lot of miles and had the throttle wide open for most of them- from runaway to professional musician, bouncer, writer, artist, aimless drunk, focused leader; my skill set is very broad, but in some of those places, the river doesn’t run as deep as I’d like.
I have always pursued a “jack of all trades” approach to life, and am realizing more and more in my thirties that I want to excel at a few things that have become increasingly important to me with time.
The physical act of removing unnecessary possessions and people from my life, focusing on a few important ones, and moving forward into a time of simplicity and non-distraction is a note that resonates in my chest these days louder than any other. I want to pursue jiu jitsu as an art form, not just a way to “fuck people up.” I want to deepen my understanding of the writing process and take a few projects that have been wandering the darkened halls at the back of my mind for awhile, and see them to completion. I want to be a more dedicated friend to those who deserve it, and have my full attention on life, feeling the rhythm of the seasons, the changes in the wind, and the little things- like how happy my dog is when I walk in the woods with her.
All these things can only be had at the sacrifice of all the other things. The needless comforts, the lazy approaches, the half assed efforts.
I am on the Path With No End, and I know that it is a path “with heart,” to be traversed, breathlessly, Front Toward Enemy.