Why do we fight?
Featuring Evan Bishop: Gracie Barra Brown Belt
Why do we fight? What is it that compels the Jiujiteiro to press on and continue to train, day-in and day-out, with little to no return? This year, I’ll be interviewing members of the GB Montreal family to try and get to know them better and gain insight into their jiu-jitsu journey. We are an eclectic bunch with diverse backgrounds. One thing binds us together on the mats though; we train, we persevere, we fight.
Daniel Aponte: First off Evan, thanks so much for taking the time to do this edition of “Why We Fight”. This one is especially great since we got to do it at the new GB Ottawa location. The gym looks absolutely beautiful, not only does it have lots of mat space, but it also has a Muay Thai ring and a nice workout section. For those readers who might not know you that well Evan, tell me a little bit about your background and how you started Brazilian Jiujitsu.
Evan Bishop: Honestly Dan, thanks for reaching out and contacting me, I’m more than happy to be a part of this.
My background in sport growing up was varied – I played hockey, soccer, rugby, etc., but ice hockey was my main focus. I actually played for Dawson when I was 18 years old, and in one of our last playoff games of the year, I got hit and left the game with a concussion. It didn’t seem serious right after it happened, I just had a headache and felt nauseous, but the following week, when the team doctor checked me out, I was scoring really poorly on the assessment, and he diagnosed it as a serious concussion. This all happened in the spring, and because I wasn’t clear to begin exercising and basic drilling until the end of that summer, my timeline for the following season was messed up. So my dad and I discussed it, and we came to the conclusion that maybe this was a good time to hang my skates up; I had a few other things I wanted to focus on. I took some time off and worked before going into university, which is when I also started listening to the Joe Rogan podcast. And anybody who knows Rogan knows that he always talks about jiujitsu. So, after trying a few different schools, I finally ended my search after taking a class at Gracie Barra HQ. After a few months of training there, I showed an interest in competing and was suggested that I tried Gracie Barra West Island, since at that time Glen (MacKenzie) had quite a few people training at his gym who were serious about competing. So, after only about 3 months of training at Gracie Barra, I went to my first competition with the team.
DA: Really, so right off the bat you began competing?
EB: Yup. Again, from the Joe Rogan podcast, him and his other fight guests often suggested to compete right out of the gates, to get a few losses out of the way early, and not make it out to such a monumental thing. The fact that I also played lots of team sports and competed, I knew how to lose, and I knew it was just a normal part of sport.
DA: A lot of people are intimidated by competition; do you think your experience with other team sports has helped you with regard to competition and mindset leading up to a competition?
EB: I would say that my experience in other team sports has helped me recognize the nerves leading up to competition, but it hasn’t been an antidote to the anxiety of nerves before competition. I love competing, but I hate the week leading up to competition.
Something encouraging in that regard, though, is how many high-level grapplers, and high-level athletes in general, are being super open on social media about their feelings before competition. For instance, Claudia Doval, a multiple-time World champion at black belt, in one of her recent Instagram posts said something to the effect of: “Excited for the Pan Ams, not looking forward to the anxiety before the fights”. Or, there’s a documentary with Nicholas Meregali as well, and he was talking about the biggest fight on competition day is between the angel and the devil on his shoulders. He goes on to add though, that the devil on his shoulders is this massive, loudmouthed beast, and the angel is a little quiet guy that he can barely hear. But when you go through that stress, and you work towards a goal, when you do well or you succeed, the feeling is absolutely amazing.
DA: I think that concept of working through something difficult that scares you, something that you feel resistance to, but then overcoming that feeling and coming out of it is in itself extremely rewarding. And that can be in sport, career, or personal projects. The contrast between the feelings leading up to, and the feeling after the fact is such a rush.
EB: Absolutely. I mean, if you don’t want to do something, there’s a good chance that you probably should do that thing. I’ve been noticing that feeling in a few things lately, and I ask myself: “Why do I want to avoid this?”. Often, I think it is something that, deep inside, I know that I should do but I resist it because it’s challenging, or because I have a fear of failure.
DA: This actually segues quite nicely into what you hope to do academically/professionally. You have a blog where you talk about exercise and sport psychology, pedagogy, jiujitsu, etc. When did you start that, and what was the motivation behind it?
EB: I’m currently in my last year of my undergraduate degree in Physical and Health Education at McGill. During my degree, I’ve gone back and forth between wanting to go straight into the field and begin teaching at the elementary and high school, and wanting to continue in academia in research. So during my undergrad, I did a few internships in a sport psychology lab and I took a sports psych. class. A lot of the terms and material really resonated with me since I had already been exposed to them through sport. So it was really cool to see that many of these concepts I had learned about in a practical sense actually had some theory and research behind I’ve applied to a Masters at the University of Ottawa to work Dr. Martin Camiré to pursue a graduate degree in Sport Psychology, more specifically in transfer of life skills through sport. In a perfect world, I would be doing research on the transfer of life skills through Brazilian Jiujitsu. So, what does that mean “transfer of life skills”? These are skills like “communication”, “cooperation”, “planning”, “dealing with adversity”, etc.
An example related to jiujitsu, the idea of being in a bad position, but staying calm and focused on the task to get out of and overcome this bad situation. That skill can be applied to your professional or personal life.
As for my motivation for the blog, I’ve always liked writing, and I’ve generally received good feedback from teachers and friends regarding my writing. On top of that, about a year ago I was listening to Gary V (Vaynerchuk) who says: “Everybody has something to say, even if you think that someone else has said it, you have a different voice with different life experiences that have shaped that voice. Everybody should be expressing themselves and sharing their knowledge”. And so, I decided that I would use my skill as a decent writer to share my knowledge with people. So I put a bit of money together, bought a domain and started writing.
If there is something that I’m thinking about or that I’m working out in my mind, I might put it to paper, edit it, and make a post about it. Or when I’ve learned a new concept or model in sport psych that resonates with me, I’ll talk about how it fits into my life and how it can help others in their life. I know that everybody is busy, or that they have their own specialization or things they spend time on. I essentially share things I’ve read in textbooks or papers, and when I find gem that I think others who aren’t in the field of sport psych can benefit from, I write about it in a simple digestible way for anybody to read.
DA: So I really want to take this in a number of different directions, from what your writing process is like, to what its like being a creative and sharing your work and ideas with others, to one of your articles I really liked regarding a new perspective and appreciation for sport and athletics. But unfortunately, we don’t have all the time in the world.
I just want to say one thing regarding the creative process, and then we can turn toward your article. I find it very interesting creating and sharing work (in my case photography) and being influenced by other’s reactions. There’s an interesting balance between creating work that others will like, which gets more attention, more likes and gives you more of a dopamine hit, and creating work that you are interested for the sake of the work itself. How do you feel about that, and is that something you think about or struggle with?
EB: It’s funny I was actually just talking to my dad about this recently and I was telling him that I think I screen myself too much. I sometimes ask myself if people would want to read what I’m thinking about. Or for instance, I might write an article related to Jiujitsu, and I know more people will read it, or a popular Facebook page might repost it, and so it leads me to want to write more of the same because I know it’ll do well. But then, I’ll write an article about how the night before I rolled out my yoga mat, and the principle behind it, and I’ll think that it won’t get much traction, but that’s what I want to write. So yes, I definitely have that, I think it’s something creatives have to deal with, but I remind myself that if one of my less popular articles reaches someone and resonates with them, I can’t ask for more.
DA: I think that’s a great mindset, but definitely something we need to remind ourselves of.
I wanted to ask you about an blog post you wrote that I really enjoyed ( How I Stay Grateful as an Athlete ), where you discuss the topic of stoicism and how it helps you frame your everyday, and sport in particular. So maybe just explain briefly what stoicism is and how that mindset has helped you.
EB: So the biggest thing about stoicism is the idea of that there are many things that happen to us in life that we have absolutely no control over, and we should try to avoid letting that affect us. On the other hand, stoicism preaches extreme ownership over the attitudes and behaviours that we can control. It might sound counterintuitive, but rather than imagine ideal situations and getting frustrated when that doesn’t happen, the mindset is to let go of the things we cannot control while pursuing self improvement.
Another major tenant of stoicism is accepting the finite nature of life. Regularly reminding myself of that contributes to the gratitude I have toward being an athlete – every time I train or compete in Jiujitsu, I know that I am moving one step closer to my last Jiujitsu session.
DA: With that in mind Evan, why do you continue to practice Jiujitsu, why do you keep training knowing there is a finality to it? Why do you fight?
EB: After learning from my hockey experience, having that part of my life end prematurely, I’ve learned to really appreciate the things that bring me joy and satisfaction. And so this and writing are the two things that I do that make me feel alive. I fight because right now, I love spending the time I have doing this – I just don’t know what else to do with my time.
I’d like to thank Evan Bishop again for speaking with me and sharing some of his experience in jiujitsu. If haven’t already started reading his blog, I highly recommend it. You can find it at www.evanbishopwriting.com
If you’re ever in the Ottawa area, you should definitely check out Gracie Barra Ottawa – it’s an excellent addition to the ever expanding GB network.
All content by Dan Aponte. You can check out his website: www.danaponte.ca
Or you can follow him on instagram @just.dan.thingz