#MondayMotivation: The More You Know

How one chef found the parallels between the kitchen and jiu-jitsu.

June 26, 2017 ● 2 min read

As told to Priya Krishna by Chef Josh Habiger (Bastion)

Some of my friends told me to try jiu-jitsu, so one day, I went to a Muay Thai kickboxing gym and gave it a shot.

To my surprise, it was the hardest workout I had ever done, both physically and mentally. It was fascinating to me how the sport was as much about your breathing and your consciousness as it was about controlling the other person and manipulating them. And you are manipulating with finesse, not with strength and muscle. It was fun in how incredibly hard it was.  

I found a school close to where I lived, and after only a few classes, I was full-on obsessed. My teacher Felix Garcia was only about 26, but he was so patient and passionate. He pushed me, he paid attention to the little things in my technique, and he inspired me to keep coming back. Eventually, I started doing both group lessons and one-on-one lessons with Felix. With my crazy schedule as a chef, I couldn’t always make the group lessons — so I convinced Felix to come in really early to train me.  

I am doing jiu-jitsu constantly these days. Every time I go into my class, it feels like I am completing a physical version of a crossword puzzle. You are limited by what you know, and the more you know, the more you can do — the bigger the bag of tricks that you have. Also, I love that you can spar at 100 percent and not get hurt, as jiu-jitsu is really about grappling with small, strategic movements. There’s no punching and kicking involved. I walk out of each class feeling a little more confident and accomplished going into work. I feel more physically able for the 16-hour day ahead. And being good at jiu-jitsu translates so perfectly into the kitchen — both activities are so demanding on your body, and you also have to be able to make quick, smart decisions under pressure.  

Right now, I am a three-striped white belt. Maybe when I get that fourth stripe, I’ll try to compete (unfortunately, though, most competitions are on Saturdays, when I’m at the restaurant). Being a white belt may not sound all that impressive since, in taekwondo and karate, you get a new belt every month, and a black belt in two years. But In jiu-jitsu, the process is much longer. It will probably be ten years before I get a black belt — I hope I can make it that far.

It’s a very slow-moving thing, a game of patience — it is a quality that a lot of people in the restaurant business really lack, I have noticed. I get so frustrated when I can’t make it to a class. I broke my toe yesterday. I probably shouldn’t go back. But I’m sitting here, plotting how I can go back, even with a broken toe.

Because that’s what jiu-jitsu does to you — it just makes you want to keep going, no matter what.