What are your dreams?

I once read that there are three kinds of people: Those who talk about their dreams and goals, those who talk about things, and those who talk about other people. As should be pretty clear, I’m usually a better person if I focus on my goals and dreams. But it’s not always easy to do!

Has fear or anxiety ever held you back from achieving your goals or even your dreams? I can speak from personal experience that fear has robbed me of more opportunities and created more heartburn that I can count.

Although long interested in learning Jiu Jitsu, as an older student, I had some real doubts as to whether to start such a demanding physical activity such as grappling. Would my body, not very athletic to begin with, be able to handle it?

Would my age frustrate other students or even my instructors? Perhaps you can think of a few additional reasons for doubt or hesitation, regardless of your age or ability.

I’m happy and relieved to point out, my fears were totally unfounded.

About four years ago, I clearly remember when I visited Inverse to watch my first class. In fact, it wasn’t even a “real” class, but a seminar being run by a guest instructor. He stuck out his hand, gave me a warm smile, and introduced himself as Benny.

Note that he didn’t say “Mr.” or even “Professor.” It was just Benny. I was already impressed by his humility and warm welcome, but little did I know that was just the start of a life changing journey.

First thing I noticed were the students in the seminar, working hard and building up a great deal of sweat. But instead of folks looking tired and exhausted, instead everyone were obviously enjoying the seminar as they were practicing various techniques that day.

Think about that for a moment: During one of the most strenuous sessions anyone likely goes through, pushing themselves both mentally and physically, sometimes to exhaustion, what I remember mostly that day was everyone smiling and even laughing at one point or another.

A few months later I joined Inverse, and in one of my first classes, we were fortunate to have several visitors from out of town – several black belts in fact.

I happened to get paired with one – someone easily half my weight and half my age. His name was Israel and despite his advanced rank, he immediately put me at ease with his smile and a great sense of humor.

At one point we were instructed to practice that evening’s lesson on each other. And while I don’t recall the exact lesson, I do remember the experience. After he let me practice first, clumsily of course, I failed miserably, but Israel just smiled – no judgment. When it was his turn, however, I’ll never forget it. Even though I knew the technique he was going to use ahead of time and despite him being careful and methodical to cause no injury, there was no stopping him – know matter how I tried, I tapped out in a minute – as he easily could have choked me out if I insisted on resisting. But more to the point, he smiled afterwards, we shared a few jokes and instead of letting my ego get in the way of a positive experience, I learned a very important lesson in humility.

From that point forward I would never mistake a black belt’s kindness for weakness.

Fast forward to today, I’m still practicing, and although it hasn’t been easy, isn’t that part of the point? I’m a slow learner, which has made my journey even more challenging. But to the credit of all the instructors and staff and students at Inverse. I’ve received an amazing amount of encouragement and sense of family.

Think of anything you’ve accomplished, and you’ll know right away it was usually the result of hard work. But then that makes it all the more worthwhile.

What fears are holding you back? I sometimes joke with friends that I have a Ph.D. in fear and anxiety. Fortunately, I’ve found a welcome environment, that despite my age, I’m always treated with dignity and respect and a welcome smile. Much like the first smile I encountered when I first visited Inverse four years ago.

What are your goals and dreams? From a purely practical point of view, I never knew how to defend myself if I had to fight from the ground, which is the first reason I looked into Jiu Jitsu, and so in that sense I’m already achieving one of my goals.

But I’ve learned so much more than that. From a much broader perspective, I’ve always sought a life changing experience to dramatically improve my life. Fortunately, I can tell you that Jiu Jitsu has changed my life in ways I hadn’t even predicted. For the better, such as learning how to think in three dimensions at a thousand miles per hour! It’s already helped my career.

In short, while fear and anxiety may be part of my being, my instructors and friends I’ve made at Inverse have helped me overcome several obstacles. And more importantly, especially the obstacles I’ve created for myself. To the instructors, staff and fellow students, I am in your debt. Thank you.

Bryan, aka “Bruce” or “Gaga,” depending upon the circumstances.