How many times have you heard, "You need to step out of your comfort zone"? Or the famous quote by Neal Donald Walsh, "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone"? But why would we as individuals want to be constantly uncomfortable? Unknown or unfamiliar situations, people, places, problems...all these can make us very uncomfortable, and with that comes the natural feeling of fear, thus never wanting to enter into that "Danger Zone". I wholeheartedly believe in the power of perception, confronting our own fears, looking at them as challenges and charging into the Danger Zone, located just outside the easy, safe, comfort zone we too often surround ourselves in.
Just after dropping Vitor "Gigante" Toledo off at the airport after this recent ten days of intense, non-stop immersion Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training I was sad to see him go and mark an end to the recent amazing experience, but I also heaved a big sigh of relief; I was in a huge Danger Zone for the previous ten days. Vitor is one of the best BJJ Black Belts in the world, having been at the highest level competing every month in the biggest tournaments, training everyday at the best schools with the best in the world, taking home World Championship, PanAm, World Pro, National, European, Asian, and International Open medals and titles along the way since he received his black belt in 2008. He has lived and breathed every breath of jiu-jitsu in that time, nothing but. He sports a very tall frame and long limbs, an extremely formidable asset combined with some of the most efficient, patient, technical, and even smoothest jiu-jitsu I have ever seen forms a "kryptonite" to anyone that steps on the mat across from him...to have him living and staying with me, talking, teaching, and coaching me 24hrs a day was an experience I will never forget, one definitely outside any comfort zone.
Many people would not understand, they would ask me why? I have to admit, after the first couple days of 3-a-day heavy, hard, intense BJJ training sessions getting my ass handed to me totaling some 10 hours on the mats while still trying to work my own clients full-time, run a successful business while somehow thinking I could recover, sleep and eat I found myself asking why? as well. Or, what did I get myself into? You could see it on my face, I was getting worked over. I invited this man, a complete jiu-jitsu monster into my home and there was no escape. This past weekend he had just earned the Bronze medal at the PanAms, Super Heavyweight division in Los Angeles, and I had flown him into Kansas City until he was to return to his home in São José dos Campos, Brazil.
I wanted to train with the best and I wanted Kansas City and my training partners and school, KCBJJ to see and experience the level Vitor operated at. There are levels within the levels. I got the chance to witness it first hand. Although I had first met him five years ago, I now saw Vitor as what I can only explain as every single definition of the word professional, every second of every day. Professional Jiu-jitsu athlete. It's very hard to portray in words what this means exactly as I witnessed it over the past several days, but one thing comes to mind: With our language barriers, his very new English and my worse Portuguese, I still had many great, enlightening conversations with Vitor, a very kind, generous guy, a gentle "Gigante" if you will. Several times I asked him questions regarding training, bjj, family, lifestyle or just plain getting to know him...several times I found him responding in a very humble, yet most sincere and appropriate way, "Travis, I am a professional."
The only way to get better, to learn, to grow, change in BJJ as well as in life is to step outside of our comfort zone. Many people cannot set ego or pride aside in order to do so, or they can't see themselves being anything else but the biggest fish in the pond because that is what's comfortable, what is easy...I brought in a much bigger fish, a freaking Great White shark and entered the danger zone for ten days. I'm used to traveling all different parts of the world, I'm used to being hosted...I've never been the host. This was completely new to me in so many different ways. A refreshing change and challenge right here in my own backyard, my city. The whole experience could not have gone any better. I challenge you now to enter that Danger Zone, whatever it may be, and I promise you, you will come out a better version of yourself than when you entered! Thank-you Vitor, my friend, and thank-you Kansas City!