Faith and Jiu Jitsu – The Journey Begins

Rev. David Hallgren – White Belt

I am in the middle of these two titles.  They are defining titles but they don’t capture all of who I am.  I am 45, father of two.  I’ve been married now for 20 years to an amazing partner and friend.  I am Native American.  I am a Husky (Go Dawgs).

I could go on with things that define me and tell my story.  But there will be other posts to tell those stories.  I am hoping to use this site to tell the story of who I am as I discover new ways to live life to its fullest.  The two titles above represent two ways of life that have unlocked mysteries, solved dilemmas and equipped me to be a better version of myself.  My Christian faith and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Faith – I grew up in a faith-filled family.  My mother raised my sisters and I to honor and respect God, go to church and live an authentic version of Christianity.  I have a different style of faith now in my adulthood than I did as a child.  I grew up in a Mennonite community that was rigid and strict, but full of love and support.  I am now a Presbyterian pastor and have what I would describe as a progressive, moderate theology.

Jiu Jitsu – When I turned 45 last summer, I realized that there were some things about my life I would like to change.  I was missing some key components that I had agency to add.  My daughters were involved in competitive gymnastics and I loved living vicariously through their experiences.  My wife is a pretty competitive distance runner.  And I liked to watch from the sidelines.  I have a history of athletics and have always loved football, basketball, running, skiing, etc.  But as I got further into my 30’s and 40’s my athletic connection was based more on the couch with a beer and some chips.  The result was an expanding waistline and an emptiness of feeling cutoff from a what used to be a large part of my life: competing.

I saw a Facebook advertisement for a local Gracie Barra school opening and I decided to check it out.

My first experience was horrible.  I put on my Gi -the kimono style robe, and was oriented to some basics by Coach Wojtek.  I had a tickle in my throat from the disinfectant used to clean the mats and my heart began to race.  I felt confined by the moves, which included some simple throws and chokes.  I started to panic and had to leave to go grab a drink of water.  I was almost to a point of hyperventilating.  I was SO uncomfortable.  I left that Saturday morning, signing up even though I half thought this may not be for me.

As I processed my first step into Jiu Jitsu, I contemplated my desires to be more fit, to find a place for me to fit in and a way to express meaning in life.

I went back a few more times and then got busy.  I went a month without attending any classes. Then, after making myself go back, I almost felt worse.  Each time feeling similarly to my first experience, uncomfortable, winded, way too out of shape and even embarrassed to be so inept.  It was at one of these first classes that the instructor said the words that captured me.

“Learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable”

I realized I had fallen into the cultural trap of leveraging everything I am to be comfortable.  And the return on that investment was disappointing.  I deal with anxiety, hives, panic attacks and unhealthy addictions to food as a crutch.  These words were so counter cultural and I realized that they resonated with the hope of my faith.  My faith that so often resides in a yet to be realized hope, but still present hope.  Jiu Jitsu has become a very real way for me to realize some of the hopes that I yearn for in my faith.

Community, challenge, a way of life that equips me for the path instead of expecting the path to change for me.  It offers physical connection, learning and ethic.  and it offers discipline.  It is what I would describe as the perfect compliment to me – a faithful person.  My primary identity will probably never be Jiu Jitsu, but my primary identity as Christian was struggling and full of doubt.  Jiu Jitsu has been a key to me. Unlocking certain promises of faith that seemed so elusive to me before.

Not all of my posts will just be about Jiu Jitsu, or faith.  They might be technical or biblical or just what the hell my week looked like.

So, I will share points of this journey faith seeking understanding, jiu jitsu informing faith, struggles on the mats, struggles off the mats.  Hope, friendship, love, passion, identity, challenges, overcoming and triumph!!  Thanks for joining me.

2 thoughts on “Faith and Jiu Jitsu – The Journey Begins

  1. David, I can relate to many of the things you just wrote about…what Jiu Jitsue has given you, that’s what the Max has given me! I cannot wait until I’m well enough to go back…I need it for the physical, mental and emotional aspects of my life. I look forward to following your journey! When I worked out with you at the Max, you were one of my truest inspirations and kept me going…and now you’re not doing it by my self…but you still are a true inspiration for me, and I thank you and I’m so glad we met!


  2. honest and hopeful. and relentless. that’s you and i’m glad to be part of your community. cheers to being comfortable with the uncomfortable!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s