Are you ready to roll?

I had never heard this turn of phrase before taking up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). My transition into BJJ was purely to improve my groundwork for judo, but what I have got out of BJJ is so much more. In particular, I have reconnected with the concept of play. Now I realise play was a long lost friend whose absence has been sorely missed; a friend I’m glad to have back in my life.

As a Kiwi kid, play was central to my development. My earliest memories involved playing with my friends in Karori, in their backyard or mine. By the age of six, we were exploring the stream that ran through the back of our properties, taking risks on the famous Tarzan swing and mucking about in the forests at the top of our street. By the age of seven, I was on my bike down to the park to play cricket in the summer and soccer in the winter until it was too dark to see the ball. Many a World Cup was won and lost down at Karori Park in those days!

At Wellington College my mates and I would get up early so we could play football before school. This was followed by truly epic lunchtime matches. Sure we had our competitive teams that we represented, but the play was what happened outside of ‘scheduled training’. On Friday’s we had the traditional ‘pot black’ snooker tournament. Such was the pervasive nature of play in my life.

At some point play was slowly ousted from the daily routine.  At university there was the odd game of 7’s hockey or league between boys from different suburbs, but these became far and few between. There was the odd bit of surfing or the odd hike and camp over at Makara beach, but excuses started to surface that would never have been heard of five years prior. I always seemed to have something on. Sports like golf, previously a serious past time, struggled to make the transition to play. Replaced by nothing, play became a distant memory of a forgotten youth.

I was reintroduced to play during a stint in Australia. Aussies know how to have a good time and the climate is conducive to making plans for outdoor activities in a way that England and New Zealand are often not. Play consisted of a whole array of sports from boxing through to golf, one day cricket matches and outdoor boot camps with my mates. This set the groundwork (pun intended!) for Singapore and BJJ. I opened myself back up to the concept of play and a vehicle for playful expression presented itself.

Play is a state of being which is differentiated by not being so much about goal attainment but rather an activity for its own sake. Rather than be defined, play is best reconstructed by looking back into one’s childhood, identifying those moments of bliss with friends, and using this as an anchor by which to explain what I’m talking about.

To take a line from a great reference article on the topic – “Play is just as pivotal for adults as it is for kids”. Through play we can live in the moment, feel freedom and flow, and be liberated from the self-imposed constraints of daily living. Play forces us to be a human being, not just a human doing. Play does not have to be sport but can be any manner of activities. The key is that it is done for its own sake; an end in itself. Take this attitude and play will reward you plenty. Who knows, play may be that friend that you have been missing, the friend that wants to give you your mojo back.