Like many people, I was introduced to jiu jitsu when I watched Royce Gracie win the first Ultimate Fighting Championships. I was intrigued. I began to read about the Gracie family and the history of Gracie Jiu Jitsu, and the more I read the more fascinated I became. I moved to Tucson in the mid 90’s from a small town and one of the first things I did was to look for a Gracie school. I was disappointed to learn that there wasn’t one.
Years passed. I got married, had a little girl, and between work and school I was spending nearly all of my time in front of a computer monitor. Family and friends started to joke about how I was getting round around the edges, but I didn’t think too much about it. Life happens. For a year I worked and went to school from home. During that time, I engaged in so little physical activity that my heart would race and my calves would cramp up simply by walking down the aisles while shopping at the grocery store. I’d even lose my breath when I tied my shoes.
It came as no surprise when my doctor told me that I was too heavy, and that my cholesterol and triglycerides were too high. He told me that if I continued down the path I was on, I was at risk of becoming diabetic and that if I wasn’t able to lower my cholesterol and triglycerides he’d have to start me on medication. I could no longer continue to neglect my health.
About ten years ago I started lifting weights and running, and although I was able to lose weight, it was so unpleasant for me that I was unable to stick with it, and in time the weight came back and then some. I’d never lost interest in jiu jitsu and to my surprise a brand new Gracie Barra school had just opened up in town. I scheduled an introductory class and was immediately sold.
My first two weeks were quite terrible. I couldn’t get through the warm up without stopping to rest and during the drills I’d often have to take a break to catch my breath. It was painful, frustrating, and embarrassing, but my Professor and partners were always understanding and encouraging. They’d remind me that what mattered was that I was going to class and trying my best.
My third and fourth weeks were better, but not by much. I’d neglected my fitness for far too long and I knew that getting in shape was going to take work. I kept at it. It was until my second month that things started coming together. I was beginning to actually enjoy jiu jitsu. By the end of my second month I’d lost 20 pounds, and by the end of my third month I’d lost 30 pounds. I’d like to lose about 15 more pounds, and the way things are going it shouldn’t take long.
Everything feels better now that I practice jiu jitsu. Even breathing feels better. I sleep better. I feel less stress. I’m happier. My life is more balanced. An unexpected benefit of jiu jitsu is that my confidence is improving. I’ve often doubted my ability to accomplish certain things and as a result I’ve always been hesitant to confront difficult situations. In jiu jitsu I am confronted by difficult situations so often, that I’m learning to stay calm when things are uncomfortable, and I’m able to do this in other areas of my life as well. I don’t fear difficult situations anymore.
It’s no exaggeration to say that jiu jitsu has been life changing, and I hope I’m able to practice jiu jitsu for a long time.