The Gym is a Community


(Courtesy Toronto BJJ/Facebook)

One of the really amazing things about Brazilian jiu-jitsu is the people you meet.

In big cities, we tend to select our tribe. We find people who are like us, and we stick together. To look at us, my core group of friends seems pretty diverse. And in terms of of ethnicity and sexuality, it is. But in other ways, we’re remarkably homogenous. We’re all somewhere between our late 20s and early 40s, with the bulk of us being in and around 35. Most of us are childless. Most of us work in either “creative fields” or tech. Our politics range from centre-left liberalism to Anarcho-socialism. No one is especially religious.

My gym friends, on the other hand include evangelical Christians, Muslims, Orthodox Jews, electricians, lawyers, bouncers, students, traditional conservatives, labour union leftists and a weirdly high number of libertarians. They come from Poland and Portugal and Jamaica and Costa Rica and Korea and Israel and Somalia, and of course, Brazil. They also include people from across Canada, from Vancouver Island to Manitoulin Island to Nova Scotia. More than half of them are parents. Most of their kids train, too. They range in age from 16 to their mid-50s. It is a truly staggering cross-section of humanity.

And we all manage to get along, because we have this one thing in common. And we do talk about other things, and we do disagree about them, but we manage to not go off on each other, because it’s hard to other someone who showed you how to do a forward roll guard pass, or helped you come back from injury, or who’s kid you kept from wandering out of the changeroom without pants on. Sometimes we even manage to change each other’s minds about things.

When I was coming back from my recent toe injury, I wasn’t super into training. It felt like a struggle. It still does, a bit. But what keeps me going is the community. I miss the gang if I don’t see them for a week. They’ve become my friends, and new friends are hard to make as an adult.

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