I suppose it had to happen. I've lost my obsession for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
I no longer think about it day and night.
I no longer constantly seek out every new move, and watch every second of every competition to glean the deep understanding of the best of the best.
Currently, my obsession has shifted to a topic that became a far deeper rabbit hole than I ever expected; Handbalancing.
Or more simply at this point, handstands.
Doing Handstands properly is really, really hard.
I'm not interested in a flopped over, arched back, hands shifting around handstand.
I want a straight-as-a-pole, candlestick, hands-not-moving handstand. I want a minute long free-standing handstand. And then I want two minutes. And then the possibilities will be limited only by my imagination. One-handed handstands, planches, handstands on canes, and so on.
And it is really, really hard so far. I find the same intense daily frustration that I remember from the first several years of BJJ.
But man, it is really really awesome. There are moments where I'm upside down where up and down loses meaning and it feels like you're just floating there in space, without effort, your whole body cooperating through tension and inhibition to attain a single goal of balanced stillness.
Don't get me wrong, I still suck. I can hold for awhile against the wall, and inconsistently can hit about 20 seconds freestanding. Inconsistently. Some days glory, some days, fury.
I've always been inspired by Ido Portal, and Odelia Goldschmidt
(her video in Hong Kong is what I show people to demonstrate why I get so excited about this stuff, her combination of grace and power is incredible) and now I spend as much time watching handbalancers, yogis, gymnasts, circus performers and movement "generalists" as I used to spend watching Jiu Jitsu.
In much the same way that my first classes in BJJ were so incredibly humbling, by showing me how little I knew, and how far I had to go; every time I attempt a new piece of movement, I am shocked at how weak my body is, even after 9 years of extremely dedicated practice in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Ever tried to press into a handstand with straight legs? Or even tried to slow your legs down to the ground out of a handstand? Then you'll know what I mean. It's like there are certain muscles in my body that don't even exist yet. And flexibility! I've always been a flexible guy, but Jiu Jitsu has really funnelled that flexibility in a very specific direction. I can barely bend backwards AT ALL. I'm working on my back bridge, or wheel pose, and it feels like I'm ripping myself in half. Shoulder flexibility is a huge necessity for a proper handstand line, and BJJ has locked my thoracic spine up tight.
So if there's anything thats going to let me do jiu jitsu into my later years, it seems to be this pursuit of more wholistic movement, strength and mobility. BJJ is great, but limited in this aspect, whereas the demands of gymnastic/yoga/equilbre style movements are more universally demanding. You've got to work to open up every corner of your mobility or you're going to be severely limited in your ability to do some things.
Now don't get me wrong. I STILL LOVE JIU JITSU. I still love rolling, I still love teaching, I love everything that comes with it. And my jiu jitsu is still getting better. As my understanding of my body increases, my body is getting better at doing what I want it to, and I am getting a far better understanding of how to generate force, and use leverage. I can feel my body becoming more injury proof. My back, my core, all getting tighter, stronger, more unified. I don't have the brutal hip and lower back pain that I thought was going to be the norm. Where I once had to tape every one of my fingers to be able to roll, I now don't tape any at all, and I don't experience any soreness at all afterward in my hands. My forearms have grown comically, and with them, my grip strength.
Ultimately, BJJ is just one expression of the way that two bodies can move while connected, further filtered by it's purpose, domination and submission. Because of these limitations or filters, there are some movements that become completely unnecessary if your practice is BJJ alone. There is no need for backbends, or one-handed handstands, or QDR.
But all of those movements have great benefits for the body that could inform your BJJ practice, and increase the amount of time you'll be able to practice at an intense level.
My pursuit of a single style of movement in BJJ has opened up to include a more complete picture of movement. And what's best is that this new pursuit isn't going to replace Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in my life, but rather will inform it, improve it and allow me to practice it for a much longer time.
If i die on the mats at age 100, in the middle of a roll, or while holding a one-handed handstand, I'll be fine with that.