Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from ACM, which has journalists in every state and territory. Today's is written by Manning River Times journalist Rick Kernick.
(min cost $8)
Login or signup to continue reading
As a child I imagined the confusion and anxiety that dominated my day to day existence would subside with the passing years. That with age would come wisdom, and with it, peace of mind.
I was wrong. It got worse.
Hearing that exercise and social engagement provided excellent remedies for depression, I thought it well worth taking up some form of organised sport.
For men in their fifties, such as myself, this usually takes the form of golf, maybe tennis, quite often lawn bowls.
I decided to try Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Good sense never was my strong suit.
Legacy Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy is run by Mauricio Siqeira and Vanessa Lima Samento in Diamond Beach on the mid north coast of NSW, in a dojo adjoining the house the couple share with their young son, Felix.
Together they embody the typical image of a young Brazilian couple; fit, good looking, and with that 'cafe au lait' skin tone that evokes dancing at Carnival or game winning goals in a FIFA World Cup final.
The dojo appears to be a little bigger than a single car garage, its floor covered in impact-resistant foam matting. It feels spongy underfoot, though far from 'jumping castle' soft. Just soft enough to entice you to lay down and get comfortable while you contemplate the knee that's being driven into your chest.
Before launching into some warm-up exercises that have me gasping like a two-pack-a-day chain smoking fish out of water, Mauricio discusses the principles of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Several times he reinforces the point that it is a method of self defence and not a weapon to be used for seeking out violence.
"I tell the kids I teach, 'this will be your superpower, but you can never show it or use it on your friends - it is only for protecting yourself'," he says.
What's happening around Australia:
After the warm-up, Mauricio demonstrates techniques for falling safely and how to remain mobile while on the ground. He pairs me with the other student in attendance, 20 year-old James, and together we go through some drills.
Instructions and encouragement are offered from Mauricio before he has James and me use the techniques against himself. The fact that Mauricio begins from a position laying flat on the ground while I'm standing makes me think it a reasonable proposition.
He sets the timer for two minutes and we begin.
Immediately it feels like I'm trying to wrestle the world's strongest octopus. His arms and legs appear to be everywhere at once and in constant motion, pushing me away regardless of what I do.
I'm out of breath and sweating while he looks like he could be reading a book, so little effort does he require to repel my attacks. He's calling out time markers every 30 seconds while I'm approaching cardiac arrest. At one minute 30 seconds Mauricio changes from merely playing defence to now trying to put me on the ground.
His feet are around my ankles pulling me off balance while I do my best to remain upright. It's hard to conceive having to defend yourself from someone laying on the ground but that's exactly what is happening.
He calls time at two minutes and for a moment I'm congratulating myself for staying on my feet before the obvious realisation that, if he so wished, he could've dropped me like a bad habit any time he wanted.
I'm catching my breath while Mauricio explains that Jiu-Jitsu is 70-80 per cent a mental activity sport. I'm considering his words while my heart slows from its coronary inducing rate when it all begins to make sense.
In the dojo, just as in life, charging in and attempting to overpower problems rarely ends in success. Whatever you're pushing against can invariably push back harder. It's all about assessing options, utilising your strengths in an intelligent and creative way to overcome resistance.
Critical thinking in the form of martial arts.
James and I line up side by side and bow to the master across the room who returns the gesture. As I'm exiting, a bit of the anxiety I arrived with remains gasping and beaten on the dojo's floor, but that's okay. I've wrestled with it long enough.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.