Andrea’s Musings on Hunting & Jiu Jitsu
Jiu jitsu doesn’t seem much like hunting. It’s usually in a gym with a lot of other people, and a major attraction of the sport is the ability to train in a safe way, with a relative lack of consequences.
But I began my jiu jitsu training around the same time that I started hunting, and the two pursuits seem to me like two sides of the same coin. In my experience, both jiu jitsu & hunting have promoted personal growth in similar areas, though in different ways.
Here are some of the similarities I’ve noticed in my experiences with jiu jitsu & hunting:
1. Embracing the difficult
If there’s one thing that’s true of nearly everyone who hunts and/or trains jiu jitsu, it’s that they have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. In hunting, this usually means waking up ungodly early, sitting still on a small chair for hours, and being cold. In jiu jitsu, you may find yourself (I often find myself) being smashed, smothered, crushed, pinned, cranked, twisted, stretched, and choked. And a lot of that comes before it’s even time to tap to a submission.
The amazing thing about both of these endeavors is that participating in the discomfort is entirely voluntary. Not feeling up to sitting in the cold today? Just go back to sleep. And if a roll ever gets too intense, you can always tap. That makes it all the more meaningful when you get to come home and say, “I was so f*cking cold that I was about to call it and come home, but I stuck it out and 3 does showed up out of nowhere!” or “She almost got me in a head and arm choke, but it wasn’t tight and I outlasted it!”
There’s definitely an empowering sense of pride that comes from discovering how much shit you can actually take.
2. Working toward self-sufficiency
There’s nothing more empowering than feeling independent and self-sufficient. And I can think of no better application for feeling truly self-sufficient than being able to defend yourself and get your own food. When you strip away all of life’s frills, there’s not much more that a person really needs besides food and safety. Maybe bushcraft and shelter-building is next for me, but at this point, I am pretty proud of the independence I’m gaining from my two favorite sports.
3. Feeling like you suck
Feeling inadequate has been a very prevalent emotion over the past year for me. I’m not going to try to spin this to convince anyone that it’s a fun feeling – it’s definitely not. But I think finding this same feeling in both sports is really interesting. Doing anything as an adult beginner usually entails some level of feeling like we suck, but what’s interesting to me is the intensity that I feel with hunting and jiu jitsu. I rock climb from time to time, and I definitely don’t feel like I’m particularly good at it, but I never feel that embarrassing, devastating feeling of sucking nearly as strongly as while hunting or doing jiu jitsu.
What I will say about this feeling is that it is an incredible mental challenge that takes a lot of discipline to overcome – and I mean that in a good way. I try to fabricate ways to attack and overcome my mental weaknesses, so that if a real-life situation arises that tests me, I’m ready to face it. And I can say with full confidence that my experiences with both hunting and jiu jitsu have pushed me into strong feelings of low self-esteem, given me the opportunity to face those feelings, and shown me how to keep going and not give up. I’ve also met some incredible mentors and friends along the way who showed me that I was not alone in feeling that way, and who inspired me to just keep trying.
That’s a life lesson if I’ve ever seen one: no matter how inadequate you feel, figure out how to keep going.
4. Practice is nothing like the real thing
In a jiu jitsu class, I can rep a move to perfection. I can think I know it inside and out, but the moment I try it in a live roll, technique goes out the window and the whole thing is a flop. I’ve gotten more used to this feeling over the last year of training, but finding a similar experience on our recent bowhunt took me by surprise. I had practiced archery a lot over the months and weeks leading up to our hunt. Specifically, I had practiced drawing my bow – could I do it smoothly, efficiently, quickly, and quietly? The answer was yes, at the archery range. But absolutely not when there was a deer less than ten yards away from me. I scared away 3 different deer: one because my draw was too quick and loud, one because I timed my draw wrong and had to let down, and one because I took probably 3 times longer than usual to line up my shot (and was breathing very hard).
No matter how much I rep a move or practice archery, there is no substitute for just getting out there and doing the real thing. Whether I succeed or not, I’ve learned so much more from one roll or one draw on a real deer than hours of practice.
There are so many reasons why hunting and jiu jitsu are similar to me. But I think the best reason to do both sports is the reason they are opposites.
Jiu jitsu is well regarded for being the one combat sport where participants can give a near 100% effort without injuring each other. Training partners can roll with full intensity and come out injury free, as long as they know when to tap and when to slow down on a submission. It’s a safe way to train one of the most unsafe, intense activities we participate in: fighting. As a result, you can pretty much fight as hard as you want with no real consequences. It’s a great way to learn technique, build strength, and embrace a fighting spirit without shortening your lifespan.
Hunting is the opposite. An ethical hunter is extremely measured, knowing that every action has real-world consequences. Every action a hunter takes is quite literally a matter of life and death. Practicing archery and marksmanship, knowing your shooting angles and distances, and staying focused can all make the difference between a clean hit and a lost, wounded animal. In my experience, a big part of hunting is having the discipline to decide not to take the shot.
So when we both train jiu jitsu and hunt, we get to practice both going all out with no consequences and being extremely measured and aware of steep consequences. To me, it’s the best way to embrace both the intensity of the human experience and the responsibility of being human.
Tyler & Andrea
We travel the country full-time in our RV, making documentaries and podcasts about our life. We are the ultimate adult beginners. From RVing full-time to cooking to some of our newer interests like bow hunting and jiu-jitsu, nearly everything we do we discovered as adults. Being an adult beginner is surprisingly challenging, and at times we really do feel like we don’t know anything! But if there’s one thing we know in the Hixson household, it’s that we want our lives to be wild, free, and lived intentionally. If something looks difficult or intimidating, it’s probably worth doing. And there’s no better time to start than now.
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