When I visited Japan, the most profound thing that I noticed—and that I didn’t expect in my wildest imagination—was that, in Japan, there were no garbage cans. If my life depended on it, I could not throw a piece of paper away properly.
And on the streets in Japan, any place we went, there was also no trash.
I started to think about how it was possible that there are garbage cans on every street corner in New York City…but there’s still garbage on the streets.
It struck me that perhaps in Japan, more than here at home, people take individual responsibility for properly disposing trash. Everyone contributes to keep the community clean. As an observer, I felt it the difference very acutely; I saw it as a kind of respect that leaves pristine results.
If we look at our own lives and practice, we’ll find that this attitude can be mirrored in the martial arts classroom.
For instance, here in our dojo we recently graduated a fine group of men and women to black belt. Individually, they all worked long and hard to accomplish a goal they’d set for themselves. But equally importantly, we had another group of people – their training partners and peers – who had been there each step of the way to lend critical support.
The “supporters” weren’t just there in the days leading up to their achievements, but in the months and years preceding. They’d contributed the essential ingredients for growth, improvement and success. And on top of that, the overall level of training in the classroom grew because of the combined effort of all the participants.
In other words, everyone got better.
Now, some people might say that this is teamwork. But I believe it’s something else. In fact, I prefer to think of it as part of an effort to do something for others first, and as a natural result of that, everyone benefits.
See, when we provide support in this way, not begrudgingly and out of obligation but naturally and organically out of a desire to see others do well, we access the spirit of mutual benefit. Sure, we recognize others’ achievements after they’ve reached an important goal…but it never diminishes our own contribution. We improve ourselves, the culture and the atmosphere of the dojo, even as we focus on helping others succeed.
And, in true martial arts spirit, everything rises.
– Gene Dunn & Foundation of Love
For more about our larger project of cooperative Jiu-Jitsu and martial arts training, please visit the
Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Brooklyn BJJ) website here.