On The Mat – Reflections from a new Black Belt to his mentor

The lessons learned and taught on the mat cannot be learned anywhere else in life.

Everyday we face our fear, our insecurities and our doubts.

Everyday we come face to face with our raw emotions. It’s just us and our opponent. No mother, no father, no religion. There is no savior on the mat but our own hard work, our own skill and our own determination.

It doesn’t matter how much money you have in the bank or what certificates or diplomas you have on the wall. It doesn’t matter who you know, how old you are, or what you look like or what color your skin is. All of those things have zero value on the mat. It does matter how much heart you have. It matters how much skill you have and how much time you have put in. It does matter how brave you are and how much you believe in yourself.

We are faced with a raw, uncensored truth of who we are every minute on the mat. Our opponent can try to hide it with a smile or puff out his chest or fake an injury or tell us he didn’t sleep the night before but we can see it in his eyes. He also cant hide the truth. On the mat, no one cares about your excuses. Whether you are injured, going through a divorce or  a break up, or that you didn’t sleep the night before or you had no breakfast, or you lost your job. The only thing that matters is your skill, you heart and your determination. There are no excuses on the mat.

On the mat the boy will turn into a man, the man will turn into a warrior, and the warrior will turn into a legend.

Our instrument, our weapon is our body and our minds. On the mat a stranger quickly becomes a friend and the friend becomes a comrade and the comrade becomes our brother. Our teacher becomes our guide and our guide becomes our best friend.  On the mat our friends become our teammates and our teammates become our tribe.

Pain and humiliation are things we quickly learn to get used to and the sweet taste of victory, as sweet as it is, only lasts but a brief moment. When we eat we are thinking about how the food affects our training. When we sleep our minds are occupied going over the day’s matches, thinking about tomorrow opponents and trying to work out the newest move or technique to add to our arsenal.

Some say we are extreme and obsessed but we know the truth, and the truth is, they are mediocre and lack passion. Some of us are gifted with physical strength that surpasses others, some of us with speed, some of us with intelligence. And some of us make up for all that with sheer determination and an iron will but no matter what quality or qualities we possess without loyalty, all of these qualities are not only worthless but dangerous. As surely one day they will serve our enemies.

Where people run away, we move forward. Where others shrink into themselves, we expand into the environment. Where others flinch and are scared to look, we open our eyes wide and confront the situation with our whole being.

On the mat we learn the definition of true respect. On the mat we learn tolerance and self-control. On the mat we learn how to win and more importantly how to lose and yet not be defeated in spirit. We learn that’s there’s no way around hard work if we want success. That we get what we deserve and that nobody in the world but us is responsible for our life.

The relationship between teacher and student is a sacred one, which requires both to give of themselves completely. This is a true definition of trust. On the mat we learn that with correct timing, leverage and technique we can overcome any obstacle. These are things that can be talked about but cannot be taught in schools. These are qualities that a man must possess and without them, no matter how much money or fame he has or how many diplomas he owns or how many books he’s read he’s still only a fraction of a man.


All of these things and more we have learned on the mat but the most important lesson and the most valuable and the one lesson that will insure that we continue to learn on the mat, is that no matter how great or skilled we become, we are to always stay humble in the presence of our teachers who are  responsible for us learning these lessons on the mat…

Dedicated to My Teacher, My Guide and My Best Friend in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Sandro “Batata” Santiago

I Am Forever in Your Debt. Thank You.


Master of Masters…. Arash Dibazar  June 9th 2012

Congratulations to my longtime friends and training partners Arash for recieving his well earned Black Belt and Batata for awarding his first black belt.  Very happy for the both of you and grateful for the years of being on the mat with both of you.  -Gumby


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Arash Dibazar