In the Martial Arts, especially in the Jiu-Jitsu community, some people elevate their enthusiasm beyond just eagerness and excitement. They become “fans”. And sometimes it goes even beyond fandom, into another level of fervor and zeal and hero-worship. Sometimes it’s called “being a fanboy“.
Gender aside, Jiu-Jitsu has “fanboys”. I know this…because I have been one.
For instance, I used to think that I was a Brazilian surfer. I was a die-hard superfan. Sure, I was practicing Jiu-Jitsu, but acting the part was at least as important to me as the training. I spoke with a fake Brazilian accent. Not all the way, but just enough so someone would notice.
What I really needed was to be like the cool people.
Looking back, I get that everyone needs inspiration, people to look up to, whether for Jiu-Jitsu or martial arts skills or progress in general. But please – let’s have it be the right people.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I still have my heroes.
Funakoshi, Helio, Kano…I look up to them as models. I use these historical figures to pose the question to myself: how did they do it, these people whose lives embraced their values? These are people whose mission was to give to others the almost-magical tools they’d developed in order to live a deeper life.
But I try to keep everything in it’s right place. I’m not trying to get them to see me as “cool”. I’m not 10 years old anymore.
As I see it, a better alternative to hero-worship is to cultivate an intelligent practice in a way which honors someone’s contribution. Or to acknowledge mastery and then go back to our own work. We don’t need to go overboard as fans, with our Jigoro Kano t-shirt and totebag and signature gi.
We can embrace excellence, awesomeness, inspiration and still be circumspect and tactful in how we do it.
Like us, those we admire are on a continuum of martial practice which deserves respect but not idolization. Save that for people who change the world – or your world – for the better.
For more about our larger project of cooperative Jiu-Jitsu and martial arts training, visit the Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Brooklyn BJJ) website here.