Jiu-Jitsu: Path to Harmony

Wes Hartlieb|TDL | March 19, 2015

I’m a very hobby oriented guy.A high energy personality who loves to get out and be active and most of all, try new things. In the recent couple of years I found it very exhilarating to throw myself out of my comfort zone and really ride the adrenaline that comes with being somewhere strange and doing something new. One of the things I began to take up about a little more than a year ago was Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Ever since I was about 13 years old I’ve had an obsession with samurai’s, kung fu, jedi’s, and really anything that embodies the whole warrior poet notion. I had thought many times about what martial art to take.Something about BJJ attracted me. I was naive before ever attending and I expected to be bowing, calling my instructor Master, and studying a spiritual approach to what is an adaption of Japanese wrestling. However, What I found was a very practical approach to the martial arts.


I went into Anchorage Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and spoke with the owners and instructor Ryder Spadafore and his wife Christine. Ryder is a tattooed, mohawked, bearded guy with the common sensibility that only comes from being a Master. He’s a very nice and very frank with me about the level of training they try to achieve at ABJJ. Intense conditioning, a focus on competition, and a no nonsense approach to the art of jiu-jitsu. This is what I had hoped to find in a martial art, and generally expected from a place that would try to compete in the sport of martial combat. but as I begin to attend I discovered little things I did not expect. the Harmony that comes with devoting your mind and focus to such a task, your body to an intense workout regimen, and, your spirit bonding with others as you roll around and try to choke each other unconscious (though very very rarely does anyone pass out, the practice of tapping out let’s you train as you would fight, without anyone getting hurt).


One thing that definitely surprised me, was how family oriented the atmosphere was. children running everywhere, wives, mothers, fathers, and husbands sitting on the sidelines waiting for their children and significant others to finish training and the kid’s class that took me back to my own youth of running excitedly around the gym with friends. Drills that have kids sprinting like a bear or monkey across the mats. Laughing and  trying to beat each other to the other side. Each set of runners just dying for their turn. With the excitement and energy only youth can bring.


Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is adapted from a Japanese form of martial arts used by Samurai hundreds of years ago to subdue their opponents when they had lost their swords in combat. It’s a defensive pursuit and instead of punching and kicking, employs joint locks and chokes to subdue and submit an opponent. With the ability to tapout when you are caught in one of these submissions, you are able to train just like you would fight, and not get hurt. In the early part of the 20th century it was adapted by a Brazilian family, The Gracies, to use leverage and technique to overcome a larger or stronger opponent. Since then it has become not only a core martial art for Mixed Martial Arts but a rapidly growing sport and immensely healthy practice. Encouraging flexibity, core strength, healthy diet, and, positive attitude. Every year the tournaments get bigger and more and more people are competing. With two local tournaments (Gi and No-Gi) participants come from Fairbanks, Wasilla, North Pole, and, other towns to test their skills against one another. Giving medals and acclaim to those wishing to compete.


In all the years I’ve jumped from one hobby to the next, nothing has captivated or fulfilled me in such a way as BJJ. The friends I have made at the gym have become more like family and the men who instruct us at ABJJ (Anchorage Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) are truly men worth looking up to. Noble, strong, patient, wise, and passionate. Though there are only a few actual instructors,  each man or women is in someway a teacher to the next, all helping you along, always willing to give advice on how to better refine your technique. the practice of this martial art has brought me confidence, self reliance, self esteem, and true harmony. It’s lessons continue to echo throughout my life and even through my darkest times of divorce, depression, and self doubt.It has been there to guide me.


There are many things you can do in this life, and to me Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is one of the greatest. You can train hard for tournaments, or go just to get yourself in great shape. Whether you are a 50 year old man, 17 year old woman, or, 8 year old child, it will bring you wealth of self like few other things can. I strongly encourage anyone even slightly interested in Martial Arts to check it out. Walk in to any BJJ gym and it’s very likely you can try a class to see if it’s for you.