Training in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu really changes you. Ask anyone who trains. It’s less of a hobby and more of a lifestyle. I have just completed my 1st year as a blue belt and I am in my 5th year training overall.
I look back over my time in BJJ and while it hasn’t always been the easiest road, it has changed my life in markedly good ways.
I am in the best shape I have been in since before my 20′s. Granted, I spent my 20′s as a bit of a couch potato and a slouch. I am a big guy and my metabolism sucks, but I can spin upside down using inverted guard. I have a core now. I am able at 33 years old to do things I couldn’t at 20..handstands, forward flips, etc. I feel comfortable in my own skin for just about the first time in my life (no joke).
I train 4 -6 times a week consistently while juggling my career (sometimes 50-60+ hour weeks), time with my wife and kids, etc.. It’s funny to me now, because when I started I was not a consistent student. The first year I was training off and on sometimes once a week, sometimes not at all. As I trained longer and became more immersed in the BJJ lifestyle, I also became more disciplined in my training and in my life. I used to look for shortcuts and cheats to many things in my life and in training. BJJ helped me define the discipline in my life that I needed to learn to enjoy hard work. Now, I avoid any kind of short cut. I would rather put in the work and earn results on or off the mat.
I suppose this entry is similar to Discipline, but in a way isn’t. I’m not the best at articulating short lists. BJJ is not easy. You spend most of the time in bad positions in a smelly location with sweaty people angrily hugging you while you miss out on time with your loved ones, friends and life. It doesn’t exactly sound like the most appealing evening pasttime, especially at 2 hours a night 6 days a week. But for those of us who train, it just makes sense. Missing a class is missing an opportunity to learn more of the art that has given so much to you. I know that one day I will be a black belt. Because I will not stop until I have it. I have committed my future to BJJ and I am dedicated to seeing through to that goal.
I know this is a trope of all TMA’s (that is traditional martial art for the uninitiated), but BJJ really did elevate my confidence. While deflating my ego and stemming my macho need to posture, BJJ gave me confidence to relax and be a nice guy. I feel like I walk taller. This isn’t a pseudo-machismo “I’m a badass” thing. I KNOW I’m not a badass. BJJ has shown me that I can survive bad situations long enough to try to get away. BJJ also showed me that there are so many ways to work around “situations”. It’s the way we train, right? There is not “one way” to escape, transition or submit. There are always different angles and distances that you can change. These elements translate into the real world. And I walk around feeling more comfortable that I can always look for angles and distance, should the need arise.
I’ve mentioned before that it took me close to 4 years to get my blue belt. There is such a steep learning curve in the beginning. You go through an insane amount of ego smash, or at least I did. BJJ training is also physically very difficult at times. I have had countless injuries, not the least of which is the time when I snapped my knee fighting a leg reap take down. Just writing this, I’m trying to think of back when I started in BJJ. In a way it is a testament to the art. I say this because my story is not abnormal. Most of the folks I have had the pleasure of training with have similar stories. Black belts I know have even more horrific tales of the horrors of BJJ in the beginning. Strangely enough, I get nostalgic for those times. And those black belts I mentioned? Get wistful thinking of those times. The best thing about this is you see how much you can overcome when you are challenged. It is easy to do and stick with things that come naturally to you. It is hard to stay with a difficult challenging road that you might not ever be able to complete fully or ever be the best. BJJ has conditioned me to dig deep and keep strong through tough times in my life. BJJ has helped me to see that everything can be overcome with enough will. BJJ has done so much for me and shaped who I am for the better. (Ok so I’m a little obsessed. Maybe that’s not super great for my loved ones). BJJ has done all this for me and I’m only a Blue Belt. I can’t wait to see what comes next.