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When Auckland invades New Plymouth..

Its been a hard week; its a few days before the anniversary of my friends suicide. Its also a few days after learning I may have ADHD. Both of these creates turmoil within. Thankfully, a pre-arranged road trip to the team at the New Plymouth MMA Studio is forthcoming. NPMMA - or to others the Ronin Coalition HQ - have been supporters of Tango Kilo Mike since its inception, often cracking whips to ensure that we remain faithful to our mission with a dogged determination.

Its Friday morning. I've packed the truck, said goodbye to my family and have hit the road suitably late enough to miss most of the Auckland traffic. Listening to The Body Keeps The Score on Spotify, I work through my own demons of PTSD and depression to further understand why I am the way I am. Its a focused, 5 hour, drive.

Arriving early afternoon, I get myself campsite sorted. A quick message to head coach Mr Ronin (Jesse Puata) to say I was here was immediately replied with 'come get to the club and lets get some rolls in'. I pack my bag, and away I go.

I spend the evening rolling with several experienced martial artists. Some rounds I win, but mostly I lose. Not that I care that much. Being the least experienced person on the mat is something that everyone has to learn. Jiu jitsu has a saying about leaving ego at the door. This seemingly antagonistic saying has a real meaning; practicing the art means to put oneself in situations where real injury and death could occur. Being unable (or unwilling) to recognise when the game is lost can, therefore, come at significant cost.

After the session Jesse and I reminisce about a myriad of topics around a fire pit. We talked about many things, including spending a while talking about the impacts of covid and the recent loss of a team member to suicide. Its a tough subject, but one we both discussed in a manner of remembrance and resulting hope through the work we now do.

Over the course of the 4 days in New Plymouth, I managed to spend more time with the coalition; becoming immersed in their social activities. The banter between them, Nan, Dan, Alex, Rhys and Jesse was both exceptionally coarse, funny and liberating. The outwardly appearing bunch of misfits coming together with bonds that rival family.

On one of the evenings, we spend more time around a brazier, this time gazing at the pi-Puppids meteor shower. We stayed up talking about all sorts of serious and light-hearted banter (including how one of the fellas is revered as being one of the most manly men of all mankind – predominantly for having a prince albert). What is evident through the banter, is that every one of us have skeletons in our closet, and the ferocity of the scrapping on the mats is matched only with the respect and love for each other off them. Clearly they've all been through and seen a lot.

One of the club members Greg, who just turned 40, returned from entering his first competition with a gold medal (and national champion as result), said "Jiu Jitsu teaches you how to live". A very simple and profound statement, but so accurately true. You see, the premise of jiu jitsu in practice allows people to admit defeat in a safe manner through a 'tap', enabling the situation to be reset and for the combatants to start again. Implicit to this is the trust one must emplace on the other to ensure that when the tap is given, the combat stops and resets. Learning to trust and be trusted physically, enables conversation and emotional trust to take place. It is the only martial art that I'm aware of that hugging is actively encouraged, and even if words cant be spoken really does hit the spot.

The universe seemingly has a habit of ensuring the right people be in the right place at the right time. Its pretty clear that NPMMA has this fortune. A clear intent to bring the best out of people in many different ways and to create resiliency, succession planning and true friendship, really demonstrates a commitment to the people, the art and to themselves. I could think of a lot of worse things to do with my time than train here.

If you're reading this, and you've yet to take the plunge. Give jiu jitsu a go. Even better, if you're in the 'Naki, go visit the New Plymouth MMA Studio and arrange a free trial now.

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