The Leap of Faith; The art of believing in yourself

What we need to do to allow magic to get ahold of us is to banish doubts from our minds. 
Once doubts are banished anything is possible. 
– Carlos Castaneda (Juan Matus)
Banish the doubts

Last weekend I drove to North Carolina to attend a Robson Moura seminar.

Although I’ve definitely covered some distances to train with Master Robson since I met him, this was the farthest I’ve ever driven and along the way, I found myself asking: What am I doing? What am I trying to accomplish? Is it worth it?

As I watched the road flash by, the trees and the mountains, the golden dome in Charleston, the fading autumn colors, the overambitious trucks trying to pass uphill, the cops hiding in the shrubbery, as I stopped for gas and cider and mysterious Southern pork products, stumbling out of the car bent over like an old woman, driving through the rising sun and the setting sun, getting stuck in rush hour traffic in Raleigh and driving through pitch black on the final stretch to Greenville and pushing, pushing, pushing to arrive at last in time to watch the rank review, it was as if I were reliving all the ups and downs of my purple belt journey.

It was long – longer than I had expected – and exhausting, and just when I thought I was getting close, I hit a snag. Just like purple belt.  And I thought about giving up, but when I imagined what it would feel like to quit, it felt awful. It felt empty. And emptiness is worse than discomfort. So I kept going.

Friday evening traffic outside Raleigh
My stepfather, who was a minister, used to tell couples who came to him to get married that the best way to get to know a person is to take a long road trip together.

If you want to get to know someone, go on a road trip together.
“If you still want to get married when you come back,” he would say, “give me a call.”
And it occurred to me that his advice works pretty well for getting to know yourself. Whether it’s a road trip to an actual place, or a road trip into jiu-jitsu, both provide plenty of time for soul-searching.
I just got my brown belt. Not to change the subject, but the point is, I met Master Robson when I was still a blue belt, back in 2011, and I started to really follow him in earnest in 2012, which was the year I got my purple belt.

2011: My first Robson Moura seminar
I trained with a lot of different people at purple, because I realized I had a choice: I could either just affiliate with somebody local (since my instructors had disappeared) and work towards my brown belt, or I could look around and figure out where it was I wanted to go with my jiu-jitsu. Who it was I wanted to be. What kind of jiu-jitsu I wanted to have.
Because if at white belt, I just thought jiu-jitsu was a stable, static thing you learned, like, I don’t know, memorizing the times table or something, and at blue belt I discovered the top game and thought I had achieved bjj enlightenment, by purple I realized that jiu-jitsu is language. 

And you never stop learning a language, just like you never stop learning jiu-jitsu.

Do you speak jitsu?

It took me a long time, as I knew it would, although I didn’t fully realize how long. I was a purple belt for five years and four months. And during that time, I was constantly on the road. I was like the little bird in the book looking for its mother, and I got to train with a lot of amazing people while I tried to figure out where I was going. 

Are you my jiu-jitsu mother?

Saulo Ribeiro called me “Ronin.” Which was nice.

When the student is ready the teacher will come
And I love Saulo’s jiu-jitsu, except when his students beat me with it. I love Ricardo Pires’s side control. I love Pedro Sauer’s finesse and tenacity. But over time, I found myself focusing more and more on one person, and that was Master Robson.
And that’s because, first of all, I really and truly feel that his jiu-jitsu is just on a completely different level. As an irrepressible white belt (now a blue belt) put it: Robson moves better than a hypothetical Jesus.

He moves better than Jesus

But while Jesus multiplied five loaves and two fishes to feed the thousands, Robson has turned four limbs and one neck into thousands of submissions – sometimes, all at once. More often than not, his subs are what I call “BOGO” (buy one get one) because the shoulder lock is also a wrist lock and an armbar and a choke and a toehold. On the rare occasions that an armbar is just an armbar, I admit to feeling – just a little – cheated.

He’s the master of transformation. But rather than changing himself to work within the existing framework of reality, Robson Moura has perfected the art of transforming reality. And besides his jiu-jitsu itself, which you could absolutely just copy and paste and not go wrong, I wanted to learn that art – the art of creating your own reality.

I wanted to know how he does that. I wanted to know how his mind works. Spoiler alert: I failed.  I still don’t know how Master Robson’s mind works. But, as one of his black belts told me with a shrug, “Nobody knows. It’s not just you.”
But what I realized, at the end of the day, is that it’s not so much about getting a window into Master Robson’s mind. It’s about opening a window in my own mind, to allow this process of osmosis to take place, to allow the jiu-jitsu to flow in and myself to flow out.
Which means giving myself permission to be myself. It means, as Master Robson advised me before Master Worlds, “Believe in yourself.”
Which is not really as easy as it sounds. In fact, it’s really hard. It takes what my stepfather Tom used to call a “leap of faith.” What Tom meant was that reason and logic will not get you to God. There has to be a point where you make a conscious decision to believe, to take that leap into the unknown.

In the same way, reason and logic will not make you believe in yourself, when you’re standing there with your DIY jiu-jitsu and a body that has seen better days, looking at Robson Moura and a million people who are younger and faster and more athletic and more graceful and more technical than you could ever be even in your dreams (and yes I do dream about jiu-jitsu and Robson still beats me every time).
Believing is not a mathematical equation, but a choice – a choice to have faith, not despite the lack of evidence, but because of it. To embrace the mystery and the contradictions of life, love and jiu-jitsu and to understand that jiu-jitsu is not the point – believing is the point. Not just believing in God, but believing in yourself, whether you’re training jiu-jitsu or falling in love or applying for a job or doing something completely unrelated and possibly even crazy. Believing that whoever you are, with whatever strengths and weaknesses you may have, you have something unique and beautiful to offer to life, love and BJJ.

When I was in the airport chapel on my way to Master Worlds praying, not to win, but just to feel less alone, a voice in my head said, “It’s not about winning. It’s about learning to fly. That’s what I gave you wings for.”

It’s not about winning – it’s about learning to fly.
This leap of faith, the leap that we make into ourselves and into our own perfectly imperfect jiu-jitsu, is when we test those wings. We may soar like eagles or flap like petrodactyls but that’s not the point. The point is becoming aware that those wings are there, and they’re there for a reason, and that reason is not achieving perfection. The reason we have wings is to enable us to fly into the great unknown of life, love and BJJ and transform it according to our desire and our will. The wings are our belief in ourselves, and the stronger our belief is, the farther our wings will take us.
The leap of faith is knowing, on some deep level that has nothing to do with logic and reason, that your wings are the wings you need to get you where you’re going. It’s not about getting better wings. It’s about trusting the wings you have.

Trust your wings
At some point, which must have been very early on and possibly the first time he ever stepped on a mat, Master Robson must have realized that the get-on-top-and-smash game was not going to work for him. Since he couldn’t fit himself to fit the game, he changed the game.

And when he changed the game, he changed the world. He created his world in his own image. And so can I. So can you.

And that’s the big take-away, at least for me, in all these years following Master Robson. If the game doesn’t fit you, don’t change yourself – change the game. Change your world.

And transform yourself. Don’t change – transform. With the difference being that change means becoming other than you are. Transforming means becoming even more who you are.

As iron becomes steel, as Pinocchio became a real boy, as the ugly duckling becomes a swan, jiu-jitsu gives us the opportunity to become bigger and better versions of who we are.

But you have to stay on your toes. As my teacher Ricardo Pires said, “You can’t just take a nap.” You have to be ready for the opportunity, the open door, the brass ring. 

But to do that, you have to believe that the opportunity will come for you, too.

The opportunities, the strokes of luck, the happy endings, those aren’t just for other people – they are for you. There is a rainbow with your name on it, with your own personal pot of gold just waiting for you to jump on it.

Believe in your happy ending
And when you see that pot of gold, that brass ring, that opportunity that is waiting just for you, don’t just jump on it – leap.

Take the leap of faith.

Amazing Words by Deb of:

Believe in yourself
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