When I was in highschool, “Fitness” was a stupid thing you did in gym class because it was required to get the credit. I much rather prefered to workout my Level 75 Barbarian in Diablo.
Throughout college and my early adult life, I identified myself as a “fighter” and didn’t care much about the process of increasing your explosive strength, coordination and agility under the pretense that the “better fighter will always win anyway”.
It was partly because I was turned off by mainstream bodybuilding culture. I had enough encounters with exclusive weight lifters who were as dismissive of my fighting abilities as I was of the value of strength training.
Well, as I’ve learned later, the lens through which you view life can always be changed, and value can be extracted from where you previously saw none. There’s almost something to be learned from anyone, even someone you may originally label as “just a meathead”.
Nowadays I recognize that athleticism is just another tool which can be developed and honed in your overall quest to become a better grappler, fighter, athlete and overall person. And here’s why:
There is no destination: Allowing JiuJitsu help you enjoy the daily hustle and be content now, not later
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke
In this short video, Robson Moura, described as “one of the greatest competitors in jiu jitsu’s super featherweight division” talks about continuous learning after getting his black belt, not tripping over learning everything at once and just enjoying the journey.
These concepts seem very straight forward yet are still often overlooked. I’ve neglected them for years. And while I WAS getting a ton out of my training, there was always something lacking.
I was constantly chasing anything that seemed within reach and simultaneously regretting things in the past, both on and off the mat.
I did not yet see the correlation between grappling and living in the present moment.
Later, I observed that in JiuJitsu, the present moment was that split second when a position can change, a submission hold can be attained or the mind can quit.
Becoming more comfortable living in that limbo brought me closer to pulling off what seemed to me at the time like Matrix-style moves on the mat.
(Instead of being preoccupied with executing the next step or thinking about the failed moment preceding)
So what would I tell you about applying this to daily life?
Why a mixed martial arts academy may be the best place to improve your social skills and meet new people since college
My first day of college, I sat in my seat, turned to the person right next to me and said “I hate 8:00 am classes”. I’m still friends with that person today.
Unfortunately, maintaining old relationships and cultivating a new social circle after graduation can become a difficult obstacle course for many.
This time around, there’s no shared classes (or afternoon beers), no easily visible mutual hobbies and most other adults are preoccupied with their jobs, significant others or established routines.
Whether you’re in a new city, or just in need of a new social life after drifting apart from old friends, it can be tough introducing yourself to new people without social referrals from others.
While I’ve always had a circle of buddies outside of the gym, the people I HAVE met in JiuJitsu and the connections I’ve made are worth far beyond any simple dollar amount I paid in membership fees.
I’ve met fascinating people of all backgrounds all with their own uniquely interesting stories.
I’ve inadvertently benefited from this by building great relationships, finding mentors and even job opportunities.
So you’ve ever felt like you were in need of a change or seek new (and maybe better) influences, here are some of my experiences with JiuJitsu as a social activity:
When one of my first coaches asked me if I wanted to reach the highest level of competition, I enthusiastically said yes.
Why wouldn’t I? I heard a saying before that went something like: “Every soldier must aspire to be a general”.
But my words were not in line with my thoughts and actions. I much rather preferred to discover a fulfilling career, go on trips with friends, date, and be involved in other diverse hobbies.
For years I struggled with this inner turmoil. I was in an environment where everyone kept reminding me of my talent and potential, and while I nodded my head in agreement, my mind was usually somewhere else.
It wasn’t until years later that I learned to acknowledge the value of long-term goal setting, thanks to one of my mentors.
So if I had a time machine, here is what I would go back and tell myself at age 17. (Though this is still useful to you if you’re starting Brazilain JiuJitsu at any age)
How getting your ass kicked in BJJ can be alright: Enjoying contraction AND expansion in and out of the gym
Dealing with the Ups and Downs of life is a pretty broad concept, but I want to talk about it in the context of BJJ and grappling in general.
I’ve spent years dreading one question: Is today going to go my way in the gym or will I fall flat on my face?
I don’t believe I can tell you anything new about this common struggle, but rather help you discover something that deep down you’ve already long suspected.
There is no good or bad in training…just DIFFERENT. I know you may have heard it all before and some of what I say can initially sound like a cop out, but this is simply what has helped ME come to terms with getting completely destroyed in training one day and feeling like the the God of War the next.
Hopefully I can get you thinking and help make it a little easier the next time you’re leaving the gym wondering if maybe you should’ve just stayed home and watched Netflix instead.
“Whether You Think You Can or Can’t, You’re Right” -Henry Ford
Self Talk is actually a relatively new concept for me. I’ve known OF it for a long time, but only recently I truly began to observe its effects (both positive and negative) on my mental state.
While the idea of “positive self talk” sounds cheesy and hard to picture as very influential, you will be amazed how often shitty self talk on the other hand can become something very toxic.
Up until just last year, I had a somewhat pessimistically funny voice in my head that wasn’t that overly harmful or negative, but didn’t exactly facilitate great results either.
While your self talk may have been cultivated in a variety of ways, mine stemmed from a lifetime of trying to use humour to downplay insecurities, resulting in me being playfully dismissive of my potential in order to lessen the impact of failure.
“Oh I’m not that great at competition anyway, so it’s not really that big of a deal if I lose. Haha”
While I have no background in sports psychology, these are just my thoughts from MY OWN experience with self talk and what it has done for me. Do your own reading and try things out for yourself as always.
Are you a real student of the game or just playing along?
There is much talk in BJJ of “Leaving your ego at the door”. This sounds like great advice, unless you don’t actually know much about the ago.
It could be rewritten to be more like “Take your ego in with you but learn to live harmoniously with it, not feed it, and not take it too seriously”. But I think that exceeds the Twitter character limit.
I’m not here to try to tell you my interpretation of what an ego is, but rather what I feel makes a truly good JiuJitsu student, how to become one, and how to stay there despite our natural need to “graduate” from the game or achieve some kind of end-result.
Here’s a few reasons rules I have followed to help me absorb JiuJitsu into my regular life and how it kept me going when I wanted to quit.
Brain Alchemy: How to transform failure and negative emotions into pure beast mode energy for the gym
In the book The Power of Now, Ekhart Tolle talks about the “pain body”, the complete accumulation of any mental or emotional suffering that a person experiences over the course of their entire life, which they then identify with as their source of real “self”.
This might lead people assume victim roles or simply accept life as something that acts AGAINST them. To some this may seem like gibberish but the concept is worth giving a serious thought.
This source of pain can contribute to the brain fog that holds many back from believing they can achieve desired goals or it might prevent them from feeling a healthy amount entitlement to even life’s basic pleasures.
This “pain body” can manifest itself it many ways. Aggressive behavior, neediness, feeling of low self-worth, and a constant “wounded” behavior. The source of these feelings can run back as far as childhood, stemming from experiences with fellow peers, parents, mentors and also various other external factors outside of the person’s control.
All of this can add up to a person believing they are simply incapable of drastically changing their lives, and they may conjure excuses as to why they can’t do something, for instance like start grappling or other martial arts.
This is a topic that has certainly affected me for years and I’m sure has has had an impact on other students of various skill levels as well.
The new James Bond movie is awesome. The scene from which the picture above is from is when Bond gets shot in the chest, jumps into a moving train and still has time to fix his suit.
One of the best benefits Brazilian JiuJitsu has given me was being able express myself off the mats in ways that are more congruent to who I am, even if that meant potentially embarrassing myself or changing how others might perceive me.
You may have heard in the massive echo chamber that is as the internet, over-simplified advice like “Just be yourself” and “Dance like no one is watching”.
People generally DO want to have the free will to express their true authentic self without the anxiety of wondering if they’ll be totally accepted.
But unfortunately lots of people also have no idea what exactly it is that makes social vulnerability so appealing. Why a public speaker can make an awkward joke on stage and still get genuine laughs or why a perceived “guru” can admit to a blatant screw-up and still be seen as wise.
That’s for you to go explore for yourself, but I want to talk about how this is related to BJJ and why you’re better off looking like a goof in the gym instead of a trained assassin.
Motivation is fleeting and constantly needs to be replenished.
If you’ve spent more than a few minutes on any social media website or blog, you’ll notice people love sharing small, easy to digest snippets of motivational quotes or expressions.
These are nice but deep down they can seem more like snacking on chips rather than preparing a proper meal.
For anyone stuck in a cycle of self-doubt or procrastination, consuming constant “motivational” videos, images, and writing can turn into an addiction for instant stimulation.
You are merely sending dopamine to your brain and tricking it into thinking it’s making progress, similar to how spending an hour answering emails and Facebook messages can seem like getting “work” done.
Almost everyone at one point WANTED to get fit or gain more confidence but told themselves “if only I had a little more motivation…”. Unfortunately this self-talk is a dark spiral that will go on forever.
Any surge of motivation or inspiration, if not gathered and acted on IMMEDIATELY, will simply lose it’s battery charge.
So what’s a procrastinator to do?
“Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an incorrect or deviant decision-making outcome.”
Sometimes martial arts discussions can get as heated as religious or political debates. Many people will fiercely defend their one style, belief or system.
Life gets a lot easier when you realize that no one actually has all the answers, and that true knowledge comes from a team of people sharing what they know and growing together.
This blog post is not meant to debunk martial arts mystique or other styles of fighting. I just want to share my personal philosophy on how to grow as a martial artist and overall as a person, even outside of martial arts.
Stop trying to subscribe to one mentality. The logical/rational left side of your brain will constantly seek one true absolute, one peg to fit in one identically sized hole, because your brain craves stability and understanding.
That martial arts promised land does not exist and it’s time to get comfortable living between the paradoxes.
4 Reasons why NOT being a natural fighter or athlete might be the best thing that’s ever happened to you
Having been involved in martial arts for a while, I’ve seen a variety of people come and go. Students of all ages, backgrounds, professions, fitness levels, and of course, degrees of talent.
Amongst some coaches is the idea of an ideal dream student: young, athletic, and able to soak up knowledge like a sponge.
Unfortunately this has created a misconception of “what it takes” to become proficient in grappling. Many new students are under the impression that lacking certain attributes is what holds them back, that they are somehow cut from a different cloth as everyone else.
Obviously I’m not saying there are no benefits to being stronger, faster and able to recover from training more efficiently. Coming into any sport as an athlete will pay dividends.
On top of being a superior physical specimen, there is another type of person that may enter training. They may be referred to as a “killer” on the mats or just plain talented. They have a distinct advantage of being mentally strong, the ability grasp concepts fairly quickly, and seem to have natural-born instincts for dominating other beginners in sparring.
But amongst people thinking about trying Brazilian JiuJitsu there is another group of people. It’s the everyman. They feel because they do not fit the typical mold of someone who appears to have been born for combat, the everyman gets discouraged or make excuses.
So from my years of observation, here are my 4 arguments why a person who’s out of shape and timid MAY actually make a better JiuJitsu student and benefit far greatly from the art.
Escape velocity is defined as “The minimum velocity that a body must attain to escape a gravitational field completely.”
A space shuttle’s thrusters use the majority of their fuel to just to leave the atmosphere and escape earth’s gravitational pull, after which the shuttle can travel more comfortably.
I’m no rocket scientist but I figure if the shuttle was to use 100% of it’s trusters prior to leaving the atmosphere then…well, I assume it wouldn’t end up in space.
In this case, the body of mass is you (physically and mentally) and the gravitational pull you’re trying to escape is the pain period of starting up a new activity that comes with physical demands and a steep learning curve.
Every day your body and mind will just want to go back to what’s familiar and comfortable, and it’s a constant series of pushes over an extended period of time that gets it out of the atmosphere of laziness and into a new habit or routine.
Brazilian JiuJitsu is often praised with it’s ability to seemingly imbue it’s participants, over a gradual period of time, with a superhero-like sense of confidence. (Amongst many other character changes)
Though while the confidence may not directly translate into instant results in other fields, it does shatter old perceptions you may have of yourself and the limits of what you can personally achieve with the help of focus and improved learning skills.
While grapplers may continue with their training for different reasons (competition, fitness self-defence etc) there’s always something to take from grappling for beyond the mats. In this case we may be inspired to finally pursue something that’s always seemed out of reach.
These are 4 changes I’m discovered through my own personal experience: