One of my students, who is a physician, once confided that in all his experience there is only one thing that universally seems to promote good health and that is movement. People who continue to walk regularly as they get older in general seem to be healthier. Professor Dennis Estes uses this maxim to motivate us: “If you are not moving forward, you are going backwards.” An article in Psychology Today characterizes black belts as life-long learners—movement in terms of personal development. My sensei, Professor Robert Hudson, tells us to keep training and leave no stone unturned. Is this the secret to life? To keep our minds and our bodies active?

The first thing we learn about sutemi is that it is all about saying, “yes”. Our natural inclination when falling is to resist—to say “no.” The classic example is of the bicyclist who hits a rock and flies over the handlebars, arms outstretched, palms out. Their body language is saying I don’t want to fall with every fiber. The hands are up to catch them, to stop them from falling. Sutemi teaches us to react in the exact opposite manner. We are to say “yes” and accept the fall. We are to go with it—to give up our bad position, for a better one. We are not supposed to try to stop our movement, but rather go with it. In many cases, we cannot control if we are going to fall, but we can control how we react to it. That really is the only thing we can control—our response to the stimuli that caused us to fall.

This philosophy of going with it can extend to everything we do in life. Most of life is frankly outside of our control. There are so many people and things in the world that we interact with and the only thing we can control are our own actions. And while it is not an easy thing to do, it is where our work lies. Jujitsu can be a valuable asset in helping us deal with the things we cannot control in our lives.

Recently, I have had some experiences that have made me really believe these concepts. It is one thing for someone to tell you about something, but it is quite another thing to have the experience. That is where the transformative learning takes place. It is the kind of learning that changes who we are versus just adding to what we know. Lately, I have been feeling that even though I have accomplished a lot in my life, it is actually all quite tenuous. Nothing is permanent or secure. The only thing we know is that change is inevitable and the only way to deal with it is to embrace it. Resistance truly is futile.

We spend a lot of time collecting, building and structuring our lives. This brings us a certain sense of security. In most cases, we can generally expect that things won’t drastically change from one day to the next. But we cannot rely on it, can we? Anything can happen. Jobs are not secure. Relationships don’t last forever. Accidents happen. There is sickness and death. You can be audited, accused, or evicted. We have all had it happen to us, or to someone we know. Something comes up and it completely takes over your life. You have no control.

You cannot stop it. Your only choice is to go with it.

It has taken me some time to really understand this concept. It is difficult, especially for people who are organized and tend to plan—for those of us who feel better when we are in control, or at least when we think we are in control. But if we think about it, there really isn’t anything outside our own actions that we can control. We can prepare, we can work on ourselves, we can do our best. In other words, we can keep moving. Actually, we must keep moving.

How does this apply to our Jujitsu training? The simple answer is come to class. My Sensei says the secret to Jujitsu is to put your gi by the door and then 15 minutes before class, pick up your gi, get in the car and go to class—clearly he doesn’t live in a place with much traffic. Woody Allen said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Of course, just showing up isn’t enough. You need to pay attention and work hard. And apply the principles in everything you do. Over and over in class we are given the opportunity to practice going with it.

And over and over in life we are given the opportunity to move, to think, to act. It is up to us to practice it not just on the mat in the dojo, but everyday and everywhere. Never stop moving.

Hillary Kaplowitz is Sensei of Pacific JuJitsu Kai in Santa Monica, CA and holds the rank of Rokudan in Danzan Ryu Jujitsu under Professor Robert Hudson, Shihan. In addition, she has a Masters of Science in Instructional Design and Technology and is pursuing a doctorate in the field.

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