Friday, January 31, 2014

3 Organizations Using Jiu-Jitsu as a Force for Good

I love training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu because of the technical depth of the sport. It's mentally and physically challenging while also serving as a creative outlet. No session on the mat is ever the same, and improving in the art is incredibly rewarding.

But that's only part of what has kept me on the mat for upwards of 8 years now.

Beyond the technical and physical aspects of the sport is the jiu-jitsu community as a whole. The friends I've made and the places I've been because of jiu-jitsu have transformed a hobby into a lifestyle. I've been blessed in this regard, and I am thankful for the doors that jiu-jitsu has opened for me. Jiu-jitsu has helped me develop as a person; it's helped my career; and it's guided me through more than a few life challenges. And others see jiu-jitsu as a force for good, so much so that they are using it as a vehicle for not only improving themselves but also for enhancing the lives of others.

Here are three organizations that are pushing the envelope of what jiu-jitsu can do for our communities.

1. Tap Cancer Out

Jon Thomas took the energy and passion of a jiu-jitsu tournament and channeled it into raising money for cancer research. His nonprofit runs grappling tournaments specifically geared toward fundraising, which has spawned satellite fundraising efforts from merchandise sales and donations. What's most impressive, to me, about Jon's work is not the big fat $60,000 check that he presented to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society recently but the way he has mobilized the jiu-jitsu community to do good with an art that is already having a profound impact on many lives. If there is a Tap Cancer Out tournament near you, make it a point to attend.

2. Groundswell Grappling Concepts

Under the leadership of Emily Kwok, Valerie Worthington, Hannette Staack, and Lola Newsom, Groundswell has filled a void in the BJJ community by running all-women grappling camps. These camps quickly blossomed into a community within the jiu-jitsu community and spawned an important conversation about the future of jiu-jitsu culture. Because of Groundswell, more jiu-jiteiros are talking about how to make the mat a more inclusive, welcoming place. Members of my home school rave about Groundswell camps, and I've been fortunate enough to train with Valerie at one of her seminars. The work that Groundswell is doing is important, and it's really just begin.

3. The 100

The 100 is the brainchild of Tom Callos--the guy who introduced BJ Penn to jiu-jitsu and the father to Keenan Cornelius. Not strictly a jiu-jitsu endeavor (it encompasses all martial arts), the 100 provides business advice to martial arts school owners so that they can run more successful schools, but the 100 definition of success is not the traditional definition of success. Where some high profile martial arts business gurus (you know who I mean) talk only about maximizing profit, the 100 takes a more holistic approach to what it means to be successful. The 100 looks at everything from designing more friendly student contracts to incorporating life skills like anger management into what we teach on the mat. The 100 even mobilizes martial arts leaders for projects akin to Habitat for Humanity, building houses or renovating dojos. Even if you aren't a school owner, following the 100 will help to expand your perspective.

Do you know of a person or organization using jiu-jitsu as a force for good? I'd love to hear about them!

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