Life’s Challenges – Jiu-Jitsu Helps Off The Mat

Throughout the period of the pandemic, Gracie Barra has been steadfast in promoting staying active and connected as a community and maintaining a positive attitude. Positive messages can mean a lot during stressful times.
On reflecting about how the lessons that we learn through Jiu-Jitsu can be applied to our lives outside the Gracie Barra school – especially during challenging periods – I came up with some specific ways that those lessons can help us.
Today on Gracie Barra blog, I would like to share 2 significant lessons from Jiu-Jitsu that might help you in challenging times.
Flexibility – In Jiu-Jitsu we learn that we must constantly adapt to changing positions and the ebb and flow in a match. When we try one attack or escape, the opponent reacts in a split second and the problem that we were trying to solve changes to a different problem entirely. It’s gone in an instant.
When the fight (both literal and metaphorical) changes we can do 1 of 2 things:
1 – We can keep trying to do something that no longer works. We are sure to become frustrated and discouraged and possibly give up trying to solve the problem altogether.
2 – We can accept that the situation has changed. The situation that we thought we had is no longer there. We must accept that the problem has changed and immediately move towards the next possible solution without lingering on what failed.
This is the essence of adapting to our opponent and flowing with a rapidly changing problem. We learn this every time that we roll. If we develop this mind set of not becoming overly attached to a specific outcome, accepting it and shifting smoothly to attack the new problem – then we have the best chance to solve our problems – both in rolling and in our larger lives.
Adapting our thinking to new (and difficult) situations is key to being able to continue to function under duress.
Stay Calm in Uncomfortable Situations
New comers to Jiu-Jitsu are surprised at how quickly they become physically fatigued when training. Yes, some of that has to do with their actual physical conditioning. But more often, it is a result of tensing up, holding their breath and straining every muscle throughout the roll and wasting energy. “Relax!” the coach tells you. But that is easier said then done when a blue belt has you pinned under side control. Of course you become exhausted!
But something gradually happens over weeks and months as we continue training. We learn to make sense out of the chaos of a fight and learn to remain calm in a stressful scenario. When we become “comfortable in an uncomfortable situation” several things happen. We stop holding our breath and breath normally. We relax the muscles that don’t need to be pushing, conserving our energy. We learn to slow down our thoughts in order to think more clearly. We can be patient to wait for the right timing to make our escape. We survive and then turn the tables on our opponent.
Being comfortable in an uncomfortable situation allows us to think more clearly (as opposed to reacting out of adrenaline fueled instinct or emotion) and find the best path out of trouble. Composure. Calm at the center of the storm. We can utilize this calm mind set during difficult times in other parts of our lives as well. Stay calm and solve the problem.
I believe that these 2 qualities that we develop in Jiu-Jitsu are like mental muscles. The more we flex them – several hours a week in Jiu-Jitsu training – the stronger those mental muscles are and the more likely they are to help us facing our challenges both on and off the mats.
How about you? How has training in Jiu-Jitsu helped you face life’s challenges off of the mat?