Jack came to the All American Martial Arts Academy at the age of 30—which goes to show that it is never too late to start! He recalls his first lesson:
I had walked by the gym many times, and it always intimidated me a bit. And that is what compelled me to try it—the fear of it. Any time I discover that I have a fear, I have to conquer it; I have to overcome it.
I called and scheduled a free trial class, and when I came in I was very reluctant to get on the mats—the fear was still at work. I just wanted to observe. I remember thinking that I wanted to see how badly they beat each other, and that if they hit each other in the head a lot, I would not do it. I was not interested in losing any brain cells.
Of course, James (the owner of the gym) managed to convince me to put on a gi (the uniform worn by Jiu Jitsu practitioners) and to give it a go. He was just too nice about it, and I could not say no. I was surprised: there were all kinds of people in the class: young, old, male, female, doctors, teachers, mechanics… even folks with various disabilities were there.
The class was relaxed and very enjoyable. I remember noticing how focused the instruction was on proper technique, and on NOT using strength. We learned self-defense moves, as well as some grappling moves. No one got bashed in the head at all, and everyone smiled a lot. It was easy to meet everyone and make friends. It turned out that there was nothing at all to fear.
After the class, everyone got to “roll,” which is partnered practice for the techniques taught in the academy. This was going to be the real test, I thought. I will see if these techniques really work. I should mention that I have always been in good shape, I spent five years in the Marine Corps, and I’m over 6 feet tall. I expected to impress these folks with how well I did, so when I was partnered with a scrawny, 115 pound blue belt who seemed very shy, I almost felt insulted. What is more, I was worried that I would hurt him—after all, I was much bigger and stronger than him.
We shook hands, as is customary before “rolling,” and then he proceeded to fold me up into a human pretzel. I had to tap out. To add insult to injury, he did it in about 20 seconds, and without a single groan of effort or a bead of sweat on his very relaxed brow. I was sold! I had to learn how to do that!