Joe Rogan Speaks with Dread Central - Part Two
DC: You’ve talked in podcasts and interviews about how you have something of an obsessive personality… like the videogame Quake (which is where I first ran into you online). So, when you got into martial arts, did that come into play? Did you just jump into it with both feet?
JR: I’ve always been obsessive about pretty much everything from the time I was a little child. Anything I got into, whether it was drawing or anything, I got into it like crazy. Martial arts was really the first thing that ever gave me hope that I wasn’t going to be a loser. So I really, really gravitated toward it.
DC: Not being a loser… that’s a big thing for you.
JR: Yeah, well… I grew up around a lot of losers and one of them was my dad. There was a lot of desire to not be like that guy and not be like all of these people around me who had no hope and no future. And when you’re insecure and your parents break up when you’re really young and you grow up poor, there’s this overwhelming desire to make sure that this never, ever happens again. When I was young, I wasn’t concerned with “Hey, I just want to go and have some fun and hang out with my buddies.” It was “I don’t want to be a loser when I grow up.” That was the number one theme in my head. Martial arts was really the first thing where I was a clear winner at something. Like, “Hey, I’m good at this. I have an identity now. I am somebody. I can be good at something."
DC: There’s obviously this positive aspect of training, but have you ever encountered anything negative?
JR: To training?
DC: Yeah, for instance… you’ve talked about how you’ve blown your knees out.
JR: Well, overwhelmingly it’s been positive because even the knee surgery thing… I still practice martial arts and I have no knee problems. Fortunately, they have surgery now and they can fix things. There are always injuries and there are psychological setbacks and things can be very, very difficult. But those things – those setbacks – are good because you rise above them and you learn. “Hey, when things are bad and when you fuck up, you can actually take that fuck up and grow because of it.” You can use it as a tool and learn from it. So, I would say that it was overwhelmingly positive. It’s a huge learning experience. I think for kids one of the most important things for them is to do something really difficult so that they learn that they can do something difficult. That something that seems insurmountable like when you’re first learning martial arts and you take your first class and you throw a kick and you’re all off balance and you feel goofy, you will never imagine that one day you’ll be throwing three-sixty spinning wheel kicks in the air. It’s like, “There’s no way I’m going to be able to do this, no way I’m going to win tournaments against some of the best guys in the country. There’s no way that’s going to happen.” It seems like it’s impossible. It seems so far away that it can’t be reached. But it can be reached. You can make it. You just have to believe in it and you have to keep growing and keep going and keep moving forward.
I have this new tattoo that’s of this samurai Miyamoto Musashi fighting this tiger and it’s my whole right sleeve. One of the reasons I got it is… pretty much my whole life… I read this Miyamoto Musashi quote when I was young from THE BOOK OF THE FIVE RINGS and it’s that once you understand The Way broadly, you can see it in all things. What he’s saying is that once you understand what it takes to get good at something, once you understand what it takes to get Zen, to fall into whatever it is – the mindset, the discipline plus energy plus focus – all those things to get great at something, you can do that with ANYTHING. You can do that with music. You can do that with writing. You can do that with anything. It’s just a matter of time and focus and energy, and it is truly all the same thing. It all comes from the same place. It’s all focusing on whatever that is and then channeling the energy of the universe to create something. And that, to me, was the biggest lesson in martial arts. It was that I could DO this and, if I could do THIS, I can do anything. It’s really the same thing that got me good at standup comedy. It’s the same thing that gets me good at every aspect of my life.
DC: Some of the best lessons I’ve ever learned have been found in failure and getting my ass kicked both figuratively and literally. And as painful as those lessons were, they all taught me something which, in the long run, made me a better person. Failure can either make you or break you. You learn from those mistakes and those defeats, and it all helps to hone the blade. So, because you do live – what with working for the UFC and with your own training - in a world of violence, and considering that a lot of things in life come out in art, do you think that violence in art can go too far?
JR: Not too far… I mean, it can go too far for me where I don’t enjoy it or it might go too far for you. But my “too far” might not be as far as your “too far”, and your “too far” might not be as far as another guy’s “too far.” It’s all subjective. For one person to say that a violent movie is too violent… No, it’s too violent FOR YOU. The person who created this movie obviously enjoyed it. There are a lot of films that are very disturbing. Look at SE7EN… that was a fuckin’ deeply disturbing movie. To some people it was too much. To some people it was like, “What is the point of making a movie like this?” But not to me and I’m going to assume not to you. It might not be good to you, but what is it? Whatever anybody’s done in a movie, it does not come close to depicting what must have been experienced by real, live people during The Holocaust. All the shit that you hear about experiments that were done on people, some of the crazy shit that the Japanese were doing… Art often mirrors real life and, if that’s the case, then there is no line that you can cross because every fuckin’ horrific thing imaginable has actually been done by someone. You might not want to see it and that’s understandable, but that’s your choice. It’s not like someone’s going all CLOCKWORK ORANGE on you and propping your eyelids open with toothpicks.