Could a BJJ dojo last over a thousand years?
If you practice BJJ and get lucky enough to drop by Kyoto, the ancient Japanese city, don't forget to visit Ichiwa.
The shop is located near the city's sacred temples and is famous for having just one product on the menu: a small, soft, sweet cake made of rice. It would be just another family business like hundreds of others in Japan, except for one detail: the store has been open for over a thousand years straight.
Naomi Hasegawa, the current owner, spoke with the New York Times and provided quite a lesson in resilience, patience and good management.
After revealing how the millenary cake is made -- the rice is cooked in the hot water of a stream that runs under the store -- she gave away another secret: ever since the time of her great-great-great-grandparents, everyone there has been waking up inspired to work for a higher purpose. Not one person in the lineage was blinded by profits or big money, which came and will come in the future.
In the case of Ichiwa, the main purpose is beautiful: to serve and feed the pilgrims who have been visiting the religious sanctuary of Kyoto since the year 1000. With every cake, a satisfied customer, even with nothing else on the menu. In case someone is thirsty, the shop offers a flavorful cup of green tea, free of charge.
The history of the Hasegawa family can be inspiring for those who practice and teach BJJ. If a student goes into a training session focused only on immediate goals, like learning how to rear-naked-choke the big guy from middle school, or even just focused on getting a gold medal in their next tournament, they might not last very long at the academy.
If, alternatively, master and student see the superior purpose the art has had since the time of the samurai -- that is, to provide confidence, safety, physical and mental health, and a level head for making good decisions -- BJJ turns into something to carry for one's entire life.
As Rickson Gracie often teaches, "A frequent, pleasurable training session of good old Jiu-Jitsu results in an increase in the chances of a person being happy, because its practice brings emotional control, faith in oneself and others, optimism, hope, calm for using one's breathing at the decisive moment, talent for drawing strategies and many other benefits."
For such, the best path is to get inspired by Rickson's mindset when you train. Aside from the hundreds of challenges he faced, Rickson had another, much bigger, goal in mind.
"I've always demanded a lot from myself and sought to perfect my technique," he once said. "I'm a martial artist, and I understand that the fighting must be beautiful. It's like art; it doesn't consist of just throwing paint at a canvas. My advice for any student, therefore, is: More than to do, seek to feel."
May all of us have a thousand years of good training ahead.