GB Values: Developing Confidence

One of the central philosophies behind the training at the Gracie Barra school is that the jiu-jitsu student can experience personal development along with their skills in arm locking and chokes.
That the hard work and challenges on the mats build positive aspects of our personalities that carry over into other areas of our lives outside the Gracie Barra school.
Perhaps the area where this is felt most profoundly is in the children’s classes. For a long time, parents have seen training in the martial arts as a way for timid, unsure young people to develop the qualities of self-discipline, respect, cooperation with others, and self-confidence. Interviews with Gracie Barra instructors tell stories of young people who initially entered the Little Champions program withdrawn and extremely shy and watching the young person blossom and open up as they started to experience success in learning their techniques and gained confidence in their growing abilities.
More than anywhere, the confidence acquired by young people in jiu-jitsu can help them deal with a disturbing cultural trend – the prevalence of bullying among young people. It is an extremely stressful reality for many young people that they deal with various forms of bullying from their peers. Jiu-jitsu not only gives young people the physical skills to deal with physical intimidation but the self-confidence that not only makes them less of a target to schoolyard bullies. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure goes the old saying.
What about adults who are less likely to experience this form of personal interaction in their normal, day-to-day lives? There are in fact stressful encounters where our confidence does play a role in our ability to successfully navigate these human interactions.
I would like to share the following quote from a book on coaching and training martial arts by Prof. John Kavanagh – perhaps best known as the coach of MMA superstar Conor McGregor.
“That ended up giving me confidence for a lot of things in life – negotiating a lease with an intimidating landlord, for example. That’s something that would have been daunting for me before. When you have confidence in the physical side of things, you become more confident in the non-physical. You become confident that if it did happen to escalate into a fight, you could handle it.”
John Kavanagh
In this way, our experiences confronting fears and overcoming challenges (even if those fears are private and entirely in our own heads) in our jiu-jitsu training can build a form of self-confidence that we can, in turn, apply to the other areas of our lives.
Many Gracie Barra professors I’ve interviewed have spoken of the idea of “learning to feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations” as a key part of jiu-jitsu. As we are repeatedly subjected to stressful and uncomfortable situations (like that purple belt gaining amount on top of us in rolling) we learn to relax, breath deeply, and assess our best options in a difficult position. So it is in other stressful areas of life. We develop an ability to calm ourselves and think clearly about what is our best option.
Prof. Jefferson Moura puts it this way: “Your training opponent is like life, you need to use the Jiu-jitsu philosophy in your day to have respect, discipline, healthy habits, know when to breathe, wait for a good opportunity, use an extra movement, withstand the pressure until it passes and even when life takes you down, you know you can start again and do better, knowing the right time to be there to attack and if you reach a submission to emerge victoriously.
Jiu-jitsu is like this all the time, one time you win, another time you learn, it’s always starting over, trying something different and better until you start winning.
Anyone who understands this will be prepared for life’s challenges.
See also on GB Blog: Winning in Jiu-jitsu and in Life with Prof. Jefferson Moura (Part 2)
Writer: Mark Mullen, Gracie Barra Black Belt