Hobbies of the Clergy #4

Joel Kettleton: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

It’s Monday night: my arm is about to be broken, my face is crushed against the floor, and I have a very strong 95kg guy pinning me to the ground. Suddenly I twist my body, suck my arm in to my chest, roll the guy over, climb on to his back and apply a choke.
Welcome to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art that developed when Japanese Jiu-Jitsu (Judo) was introduced to Brazil in the 1910’s. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a grappling-style of fighting, and takes place mostly on the ground.
It works on the concept that a smaller, weaker person can defend against a bigger, stronger opponent with the use of technique and leverage (by the use of chokes and joint-locks).

I started BJJ in early 2011 in my final year at Theological College.
One lunch time at Ridley I was explaining to another student that I had been looking for a martial arts club in the inner-North of Melbourne in order to keep fit, learn self-defence, and do some evangelism. It turned out that the guy I was talking to was a BJJ instructor, and his gym was 5 minutes down the road from Ridley.
He invited me to come to his gym and train, explaining that he was looking for more Christians to come to his gym to spread the Gospel to his fighters.

So began the long journey that is BJJ (often thought of as one of the most difficult martial arts, as a black belt generally takes 10+ years to achieve).
I’m not an athletic person. I wouldn’t describe myself as an overly ‘physical’ person.
You may wonder why I participate in an activity that I’m not terribly good at, gives me broken bones, sprains, and leaves me sore for days.

There are two reasons why I do BJJ:

  1. Christians (and Clergy) should try and keep fit.
    Keeping an eye on our weight and overall fitness is wise. While I don’t think the Bible has any specific teaching on why it is good to exercise, we know that it is good for us. As Christians, why should we ignore medical advice because we look forward to a new body at the resurrection? Exercise and image shouldn’t define us like it does for some people in our society, but we shouldn’t ignore our health.
    BJJ is a great sport – try wrestling with someone on the ground an hour and you’ll soon see why it’s a good work-out.
  2. Fighting gyms are full of people who will never set foot inside a church to hear the Gospel.
    I feel called to the mission of God – to go to the ends of the earth to make disciples of Jesus.
    Thousands of people meet every day throughout the country to train in BJJ and other forms of fighting – where are the missionaries to them?
    You may think fighters are tough and hostile (and they are). Yet scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find that they are people who experience life like the rest of us, and I’ve been surprised by how many fighters I’ve met have deep hurts and issues in their lives.
    The Good News of salvation in Christ is a message of hope, forgiveness, and new life.
    BJJ is a wonderful paradox – one minute you’re trying to choke a guy (or girl) out, and the next you’re sitting back, talking about your faith. In an environment where you are in such close physical proximity to someone, and where losing frequently keeps people humble, it’s amazing how quickly barriers are broken down and people open up.

Grapplers for Christ Australia

Many other Christians (and Anglican Clergy) also love BJJ. A few people and myself decided that it was time we stood out for Jesus in the grappling world.
We formed Grapplers for Christ Australia: a not-for profit organisation linking Christians together, witnessing to others, and giving to those in need (we are partnered with International China Concern).
We raise money through donation tins in gyms, meet together for tournaments, and promote ourselves through clothing and gi patches. We seek to wear our merchandise at whatever tournament members are at (you’ll see the big blue crosses on our backs), and are often met with people interested in finding out more about Christianity or wanting to join.
We seek to be a bridge between the fighting world and the church, helping local churches in their mission of reaching their local community, and in helping fighters know that church is a place where they are able to belong and grow in their faith.
For more information on Grapplers for Christ Australia join us on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/GrapplersforChristAustralia or visit our website:  www.g4c-oz.com


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