I am always interested to ask new students who show up to try a jiu-jitsu class the question: “So what made you decide to try Brazilian jiu-jitsu?” There are a million different entertainment distractions and leisure activities that one could spend ones free time on,..so why choose bjj?
Although the jiu-jitsu media tends to focus heavily on competitors and young superstars of the grappling world, I rarely have heard someone say the reason they started was to enter competitions.
Statistically, the #1 reason people say they start martial arts is self defense.
I have asked 100 lbs little Asian girls why they wanted to train (expecting them to say self defense) and had them shyly answer that they thought bjj was really cool and they wanted to learn a new art. I’ve also had +200 lbs young guys saying they wanted to learn to defend themselves. You never can tell what reasons are behind an individuals reasons for getting on the mat based on their physical appearance.
In a more general way of looking at why people train bjj, we could say that it is for reasons of personal development. As mentally healthy adults we look for ways to expand our skills and challenge ourselves to learn new activities in our lives.
Students place a great personal value on graduating to a blue belt even though the general public may react to the news you achieved a purple belt by saying “Oh my cousin is a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwon do. He is 12 years old.” Earning a belt in bjj is special because it is something that can not be purchased with a credit card. We value the accomplishment precisely because it is so difficult.
Show me an undisciplined person with a lack of goals, a diet composed mostly of fast foods, and who doesn’t exercise and I’ll show you a person who is inwardly unhappy with their lack of focus and self-discipline. When they look in the mirror, they don’t always like what they see. Because they know deep down, that they are letting themselves down by not taking care of themselves.
From the Gracie Barra ICP:
“The simplest answer to this question: What stands in our way of personal growth? is we do. We stand in our own paths – sabotaging ourselves from reaching our fullest potential. John Maxwell gives us an effective visual for this with what he calls the Law of the Lid. You are the lid. You are the thing holding yourself back from your purpose. Mistaking pleasure for purpose – This goes back to those earlier lessons where we spoke of avoiding the traps of instant gratification. We must be able to put aside those things that give us small doses of instant happiness so that we may fulfill a calling which results in actual, true joy of personal growth and service to others.”
Regular jiu-jitsu training can be a great vehicle for self-improvement and feeling good.
As GB Prof Flavio Almeida says “If we pay attention to and allow jiu-jitsu to make a difference in our daily lives by applying what we learn on the mat to daily life, we open ourselves up to an exciting path of personal growth that helps us make large steps to improve in what really matters to us.”
I have met many students who were waging private battles on the mat.
- Those going through a painful marital separation using jiu-jitsu as way to keep active and keep their minds off of their emotional stress.
- Individuals who were battling substance abuse who looked to exchange self destructive habits for a more healthy “jiu-jitsu addiction”.
- Those recovering from medical problems who decided that they needed top start taking better care of themselves so they could live long for the sake of their families.
- people relocating to a new city for school or work who could find friends in the academy and not feel so isolated.
- Former athletes from other psotrs who were looking for a new chanllenge once their college athletic careers ended.
Why did you start training in jiu-jitsu?
How has jiu-jitsu improved your life?
read also: 17 Great Quotes for Jiu-Jitsu Inspiration
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Saigon, Vietnam