Gracie Barra Novi, MIGracie Barra Novi, MI

Jiu-Jitsu for Everyone

Jiu-Jitsu and Family

EFG Competitors

EFG Competitors

During a training seminar over a year ago, a Black Belt instructor said he poses this question to every black belt he meets.  “Would you trade your black belt for a million dollars if it required you cutting all ties with all of the people you have met along the way?”

NEVER has anyone said “yes”.

As a blue belt just one step away from a purple belt, I can tell you MY answer would also be a resounding “NO” as well.  I’m feeling pretty introspective this weekend as I’ve been on an emotional high from both my personal family and my extended Jiu-Jitsu family.  I am so truly blessed with the people God has surrounded me with, that it literally brought me to tears earlier today, as I wondered, “Why have I been given this wonderful life?”  More on that in a moment.


As the parents of 2 adopted children, I have really opened up my mind about what family really means, and how we are all just looking to be around people that love and appreciate us.  I have met so many incredibly warm, wonderful people since I jumped back into the ring, per-se, a year and a half ago after a 6 year layoff from Jiu-Jitsu.  But of them all, the most inspirational relationships I have seen have been between a child’s divorced parents when both of the biological parents and new step-parents whole-heartedly support their child’s dreams.  This was so incredibly inspirational this weekend that I just needed to share it.

As a happily married individual whose parents are still married at 70 years old, I am not going to remotely suggest I know anything about the pain that divorce causes.  I DON’T KNOW.  But what I do know is the pain of separation that a child feels when he or she loses their parents.  Nothing could have prepared my wife and I for the memories implanted on our adopted daughter’s brain when she was merely 6 days old that affected her for years.  I can tell you unequivocally with undeniable proof, that children DO retain memories from that early in life.  But no matter how traumatic this issue, or who caused it, it is up to US as parents to put aside our selfish needs and pay it forward to our children fix the pain and put their needs ahead of our own.

I remember before adopting our first child, I wondered if I would resent having a child if it caused me to forego certain activities that I had done before.  I look back on that now with embarrassed astonishment at how selfish and childish that thought was.  I hate to say it still took me a little while after we brought our daughter home to really “get it”, so I hope she doesn’t retain THOSE memories, or at least forgives me when I tell her!

So back to my point………………

In the last year and a half, I have witnessed a huge gamut of parental situations both trying and wonderful.  From super supportive married parents, to single parents doing the best they can, to grandparents adopting their grandchildren, to grandparents picking up the pieces from parents who have checked out, to divorced parents who use their children as pawns to attack each other, to divorced parents who have put their differences behind them and give their child all the love and support they could ever ask for.

It is this last group that was on full display this weekend.  At this weekend’s tournament, one of our 6 year old students competed in his first event.  It was AMAZING to see his biological mom and dad, step dad, aunt, uncle, nephew and grandparents there cheering him on.  Nothing made me feel so good to know that this child has the unconditional love of his WHOLE family.

Another one of our students had her biological mom and dad, step mom and half brother there as well.  Both of those families are regular attendees at the regular practices as well, and are so accepting of each other that it makes me wonder how things ever deteriorated between them as spouses.

I also just found out this weekend that one of my daughter’s teammates from gymnastics also has parents that are divorced.  But they are at every meet, sitting together and cheering their daughter on.  What an amazing sense of purpose and generosity they are showing towards their daughter, and I can only imagine how much their daughter will appreciate that later in life when she understands the commitment her parents made to her at this time in her life.

On the other side of the coin are the situations that frustrate me to no end as a coach.  Unfortunately, those examples above are far from the norm.  About 75% of the separated parents of children result in one parent encouraging the child’s participation, and the other one flatly refusing to even consider supporting their child’s endeavor.  I don’t know the reasons, and honestly, I don’t care.  When I see how excited our children are to be around each other and the positive influence that martial arts has on their lives, it angers me that parents are either that selfish, or that upset with their former spouse that they would purposely (as I see it) punish their former spouse by refusing to participate in their child’s activity.

When I look at the picture from this weekend’s event, I can’t imagine not giving my own children the opportunity to experience such a wonderful environment around such wonderful people.

When I walk into a room and see people I haven’t seen for 3 months, and they give me a hug because I helped coach their child and opened up an opportunity for them, I can’t think of anything more rewarding.

I have an extended family…….my Jiu-Jitsu family.  Sure, we may not share the same DNA, but neither do my own children, and that makes US no less of a family!

So as I started off saying, I had one of those “parent” moments this weekend that just made me realize how blessed I am.  Walking through the gym during my daughter’s gymnastics meet, it really hit me how fortunate we are to be able to provide an opportunity for this child to pursue her own dream.  A dream that would have never even existed in her mind had God not placed her with SOMEONE from an orphanage half a world away.  We just happen to those lucky “someones”.  I don’t know what purpose He has for her in this life, but I can’t believe my wife and I are so lucky to be the caregivers of this dreamer.  I only hope that I don’t do anything to hold her back.

And while this article is really inspired by her, my son is no less amazing.  See, a month ago as we held our Grand Opening celebration for Gracie Barra Novi, my son and I could not attend my daughter’s meet because it was on the same day.  And as fate would have it, we missed my daughter receiving her first, 1st place medal.  Even as I write this, it still hurts that even as began my OWN dream, I had to miss one of the most important events in my daughter’s gymnastic career to date.

Well this weekend she treated us both, as she won her second 1st place medal.  After the medal ceremonies, our son dashed out from our seats to try to be the first to congratulate her sister.  No jealously, no pining, just total love for his sister and what she accomplished.

Why would I NOT want that for my children?  Why would ANY PARENT not want that for their children?

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