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Jiu-Jitsu: The Action of Distraction in Action

Anyone with a little time under their belt will tell you that living sober is moment to moment—a reality focused on the present, on living life in the here and now, but most importantly, it’s a reality focused on… The action.

I’ve mentioned the term The Action of Distraction a number of times, and not only is it a term originally coined by Alan Watts—a street-level genius who spoke truth to power and power to truth—but I’ve also heard it in sober recovery, in terminal illness trauma processing, in the highest highs and lowest lows.

And The Action of Distraction is in no way a cynical way of looking at things. It’s a way of describing the merits, the worth, the inspiration of what a sober life is actually like. In fact, of what just life is actually like.

For so many in recovery, staying in action is survival itself. It’s the way to face a challenge, to fight a competition, to win or even just survive another day. It’s reality, it’s response, it’s reaction. It’s the truest expression of the free will we have in this thing called life.

So in a particularly personal way to Sea Change Recovery, to Josh Lazie, but especially to his son, Rocco Haze—who recently made Josh the fucking coolest grandfather on Earth with a boy named Sonny—jiu-jitsu serves the purpose of direct, challenging, and cathartic action.

Action for its own sake. Action for each and every one of our sakes.

Rocco was actually the first one to walk into Street Sports: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and long-story-short, he never left. Owned by a wry, respected sensei and head instructor, Professor Renato, Street Sports welcomes Sea Change Recovery’s men to help them find their way forward by focusing on the present moment—a formidable, challenging present moment.

I spoke with Coach Adam Gordinier at Street Sports, who sees himself in every newly sober alcoholic who walks into his gym.

“Teaching jiu-jitsu’s been one of the most amazing, rewarding things I’ve ever done. It’s been a game-changer, a life-changer. I suffered from the same things as all these guys—mental illness, drug addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder. But jiu-jitsu gave me a healthy obsession, a healthy addiction, a way to channel my addictive personality into a positive way of living.”

Adam went on to describe that each class, each private lesson, each sparring session is above all active. And how could it not be? Brazilian jiu-jitsu is known particularly for its ground level nature, for its real-life physical expression combining two of the most meditative martial arts, judo and original Japanese jiu-jitsu.

“Brazilian jiu-jitsu’s much more practical and efficient, especially in terms of ground techniques. Each class we get into the ground technique of the day. And then we spar a free-spar from the knees. We shake hands and get right into it.”

Again, active. Real. Practical. Motivational. The present moment. The present moment with nothing defining it but actual, physical reaction and response. You know, being alive.

Coach Adam ended with these memorable words, “Life takes over. Hey, that’s just life. But the thing is… Once the bug bites you, my hope is they stick with it.”

And those words lead into Rocco’s experience in particular, with his respect, admiration, and motivational connection to jiu-jitsu for two years this July. Because Rocco’s exactly one of those jiu-jitsu martial artists Coach Adam hopes for, one of those young men living his life the best he can—the son to Josh, the father to Sonny, an inspiration to all of us.

“I was in a weird place in my sobriety, I felt like I didn’t have a passion. And after my first time, I fell in love with jiu-jitsu. It’s taught me more about life—about being meditative—than anything ever. It’s changed my life.”

It’s changed Rocco’s life because it’s the epitome of the life we wish we had, the life we hope for, the life we all deserve—a life focused on nothing else but what to do in the present moment.

“Every time Adam teaches me something, he chokes me out with it at the end. [Laughter.] And it’s kinda like AA. It’s not just words. Sure, he tells me his experience going through it, but then shows me his experience, that he’s been exactly where I’m at… And made it through to the other side.”

What else is there to say? That’s recovery, sobriety, activity, action. That’s meaning, that’s motivation, that’s living… That’s life.

Watch Rocco’s full story on Vimeo.

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