Gracie Barra is Gracious and Kind

My last post was about a visit to a well known BJJ gym, Atos in San Diego. It was great. And as I shared meeting Andre Galvao was a highlight.

Last night I drove up to San Clemente, CA on my way to Palm Springs to meet my family for a week of vacation. I stopped in San Clemente to train at the Gracie Barra there. My Coach, Mike Leonardi said if I got a chance to go there it would be a great experience. He was not joking! I got to the gym early, mostly because I had exhausted all that San Clemente had to offer. It is beautiful. The beach and the hills are spectacular. But I was there to do some Jiu Jitsu. Also- earlier in the day I was reading and writing some for preparation to teach in our Confirmation experience next year. I was at an unnamed large chain coffee shop, based in my home territory of Western Washington. After I finished my Grande nonfat peppermint mocha at said unnamed large green lettered coffee shop I guess I fell asleep in their comfy chair. I promise the book I was reading was great! But fatigue overcame me. I was jolted awake by the 20-something manager kicking my leg. Seriously. He kicked me hard enough to jolt me awake. He then announced loud enough to the whole Starbucks, oops. I wasn’t going to say where I was… he announced that sleeping was prohibited and that I would have to leave. Wow. I stubbornly stayed a while longer. They guy next to me seemed to be on my side then said, “I guess their coffee isn’t very strong.” While pointing to my mocha cup. I smiled and shrugged my shoulders. Then gathered my things and left. It was a first. I’d never been booted from a public place before. I had a flood of thoughts. Maybe they have a lot of sleepers? Maybe there is a new corporate policy that comes down hard on patrons slumber? Maybe my 7 days growth of facial hair and size made me resemble a scary, native homeless person and I was harshing the experience for folks? Either way the manager managed and I left.

Fast forward a couple of hours. I got to the gym and walked in. It was a beautiful place. It was large and bright and had a familiar smell of cleaning agent, sweat and fabric softener. There was a kids program going on and I watched for a while. It was their kids competitive team practice and I was amazed! I immediately envisioned my daughters with the confidence and poise that these little warriors had. I was greeted by a couple of folks and one of the coaches. I think he was checking me out to see if I was just casing the joint. But when I told him I was there to train at the later class he shook my hand and welcomed me and showed me around.

As I sat watching the lead coach, who I noticed as professor Felipe Guedes, the school owner and Gracie Barra director noticed me and came across the gym and asked if I was David. We had corresponded and my coach had set up my training with them. I went to shake his hand and he moved past that distant and unknowing gesture to greet me with a hug. A hug. It makes me a bit emotional to even write that. It was simple and seemed even normal in that place. But that hug was powerful to me. It was genuine and authentic and it spoke the words I had heard my coaches and professor Almeida talk about before. This is a brotherhood. We are a family and we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. And if we are humble and hardworking enough to live into it, it will change our lives for the better.

San Clemente booted me out of a public place and also welcomed me into a family. I am grateful for this journey as it is changing me. I described it to my boys last week like this: it has unlocked something in me. Each day I am living more into the freedom that God has given to me. And I understand myself and my path more because of it.

Gratitude today. For my coaches. My training partners. My wife and kids for letting me out to train. For my church for supporting me to study and learn. For Gracie Barra and prof. Guedes. And to God.

Welcomed. Hospitality As a Way of Life

I have not done jiu jitsu long enough to have it influence my “Bucket List”. In fact, I don’t really do bucket lists. If I did though…I am pretty sure yesterday I would have filled a bucket. I had the opportunity to train at Andre Galvao’s Atos BJJ in San Diego.

I am out in San Diego on a study leave and retreat. I am reading and thinking and praying through what it means to walk with young people in their spiritual formation and how the long held practice of Confirmation fits in. I did this in the context of gathering with 3 of my best friends for retreat. These guys and I are all connected through the journeys of our lives over the past 25 years. We’ve all served at camp, been in bible studies, led worship, led in churches and wondered how to raise our kids well. That last thing has stuck with me after our conversation on how to share our deepest beliefs with our children. We may not have solved the problems of the world but we sure encouraged each other to keep living with purpose and hope for the young people in our lives. We will protect them and nurture them the very best we can. Because we are broken people, struggling and finding wholeness in different ways. As I work today writing out the schedule for my church’s education, mission and formation for next year and work on our curriculum I am deeply informed by own experiences this week. They represent what has been present in my life and nurtured my faith. Connection with people who supported me, helped my have a safe place as my identity cane together and challenged me to take steps the may have been risky to grow and live into my beliefs.

These guys are still speaking that reality into my life and I am eternally grateful. They have listened to me, both my endless external processing, but also to any wisdom I may have shared. They have kept me sane-literally, when I’ve been depressed or hopeless, they have reminded me I’m not alone and I have a tribe. I am still a pastor because I believe in what God is doing in this world. I see it all over the place but it takes a toll on me and my family. Theses guys help pay that toll.

So, I spent 5 days with guys I’d call brothers. And I am full.

And then I also spent 2 hours with complete strangers and felt welcomed as if I was a well known member. I rolled in the 7:30 class on Tuesday at Atos BJJ in San Diego. I was interested in training at a different gym to kind of test out and see if the camaraderie I experience at GB Princeton is unique. It remains unique but it is also shared. I was really nervous and kind of cold called Andre Galvao through Instagram. He responded and welcomed me to try out the gym. So I signed up and showed up. The class was great. Challenging and instructive. We learned some guard techniques. Which was great because I have self-identified that I am terrible and tentative from my guard. And we did 4 rounds of live rolling. I rolled with a really technical blue belt, a really strong and big white belt, an inexperienced white belt and a legit black belt. It was amazing! All different but I learned in all encounters. At the end of class I talked with some of the others and felt a warmth that solidified to me that BJJ universally draws and creates a culture of warmth and acceptance. And the day ended with a highlight. Before the trip, I learned that Andre Galvao would be out of town in Abu Dhabi when I was there. But when I came out of the dressing room, I almost bumped into him! He welcomed me with a big hug and remembered our conversations. His warmth and humility were so apparent. Andre has a bible verse -Ephesians 6:10 on the logo on the wall of his gym. It speaks of the Lord’s strength and our power in that strength. I witnessed that power yesterday. Andre is powerful- like completely ripped! I thought his rash guard might split at the seams. But he displays the power of his faith truly as it is supposed to be shown. With complete humility, grace and hospitality. I am completely blessed to have lifelong friends who sharpen me like iron. And I am completely blessed to have met brand new brothers and sisters on the mats at Atos.