Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The truth about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

It is not for the weak.
It is not karate, tae kwan do, or hot yoga. 

There is no choreography or fake fighting during training.  Everyone does not get a medal and there are no twelve-year old black belts. You are very literally being challenged physically and mentally by another person and by yourself every time you train.  If you do not tap you can and will be seriously injured. Sounds harsh but it is the truth. Nothing is more motivating and challenging than having another person trying to do something to you against your will.   It is hard work. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes you bleed. Sometimes you cry. Sometimes you want to quit because it is frustrating. 

Jiu-Jitsu will show you how great you really are.

You may want to cry because you are exhausted. You may want to go home. You may feel like you are going to be sick. If you listen to that inner voice that tells you to stop because it is too hard you will miss out on the voice that yells in triumph, “I did it!”And this majestic voice will fill you up and show you just how strong you really are. In our every day life how often is the average person really (and I mean really) challenged physically? When every fiber of my being tells me to quit and go home and I tell it to “go piss up a rope” and hang in there instead until the end I know that I am strong. I find out that I really didn’t die. I find out that the limits that I set for myself were wrong.  Our bodies and our minds are incredible but we don’t realize it until we test them. Jiu-Jitsu shows us that we are stronger than we think.

Your jiu-jitsu coach is not your therapist.

Do not under any circumstances tell your Jiu-Jitsu coach that you are feeling down or are having a bad day. This is not your yoga coach or your little old lady neighbor. This is the individual that is working hard to make you strong. Your passive aggressive pleas for attention on Facebook only sharpen his resolve. He will make it his personal mission to shove you into your big kid panties. You will cry for the days that you could walk without assistance. He will make you drill and train and forget all of your worries. Every molecule in your body will be focused on basic life support instead of the residual junior high drama you are carrying around on your thirty-year old shoulders. You will wish you had posted a picture of a cat sleeping on a kid’s head instead of “Hey guys, where you at?  I am all alone tonight.  Why won’t someone come out and play?  FML You will never want attention again. But ironically you will feel loved and strong as soon as they release you from the hospital.

Everyone does not get a trophy.

If you long for the “old days” when awards were based on how hard you worked or whether or not you actually beat someone else, then Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the sport for you. Your coach does not pat you on the back and tell you that you did a “fantastic job out there, kiddo” if you did not. He will smile and tell what you need to do to get better. This is why champions are made in Jiu-Jitsu. Belts are not given to the person with the “most spirit” or the one who paid the most money. It goes to the ones that actually work hard and make progress. Many coaches give stripes to students to help them know where they are on their journey towards the next belt. Grown men have been brought to tears by a quarter-inch wide piece of athletic tape placed on their belts. Each stripe is a symbol of the hot coals that have been walked and the ravines that have been crossed. No trophy in the world is as great as this. 

You do not have to “get in shape first” in order to start Jiu-Jitsu

What?! Didn’t you just say it was hard? Duh. Yes. But I also said that you will challenge yourself. You do not have to get in shape to start. Jiu-Jitsu will get you in shape, don’t worry. Everyone huffs and puffs in the beginning. Everyone struggles and feels exhausted. This means that you are working hard. Don’t be afraid of it. Sweat is just your fat crying. (I am obviously not a doctor, thank you.)

Train to the best of your ability no matter what it is. Believe it or not, you can be successful no matter what age or weight you are. You can be successful whether you have one leg, three eyes, or no arms. In Jiu-Jitsu you learn how to play to your strengths and to the weaknesses of your opponent. And your weight is not a judgement in Jiu-Jitsu, only a classification. I remember when I first fought in the 156lb weight class (I am only 5’2”). The other women were much taller than me.  A light bulb went off and I made a decision to change my diet because my weight was not just weight, it was useless fat that gave my competition an advantage. My weight was high because my bottom was heavy not because I was tall.  I dropped two weight classes and not only am I now fighting women my height but I am also faster, more flexible, and have more endurance. And it feels great.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu should be taught to children.

I believe that children should learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It teaches them to be strong and also to believe in themselves. Jiu-Jitsu does not make them bullies, but rather confident defenders that do not have anything to prove.  Their self-worth is not dependent on anyone else. They earn their belts and stripes just like adults. And each belt rank is similar around the world. There aren’t wild fluctuations in skill levels in competitions. The training regimen is less intense than adults and they are watched very closely so that no one gets hurt.In fact, kids can’t even receive their blue belts until they are 16 years old. In some cases, this means that a child that starts at six years old may not get her Black belt until she is 20. Does this deter her? No, because Jiu-Jitsu is about learning every moment that you are on the mat. Children that start young get a very deep and intuitive education in JIu-Jitsu that teaches them how to be calm under pressure, use their minds and bodies to escape a tough situation, succeed, and to have confidence in themselves. It becomes a way of life that carries into their schoolwork, home life, and their very formation. Children that train Jiu-Jitsu tend to be exceptionally respectful to authority and peers and have a self-sufficient attitude about life. 

Jiu-Jitsu is beautiful.

The beauty of Jiu-Jitsu is the technique. Aggression and negativity actually make fighting more difficult and increase the odds that you will fail. Your own aggression and forcefulness is often used against you to gain the submission. The best strategy is to remain calm and use your mind as well as your body.  You can spot Black Belts because they are the ones that are relaxed and catlike in the way that they approach their opponent. They watch, learn, and think ahead to entice their prey to fall into their trap and then they pounce. Testosterone-driven hulks trying to smash you into submission don’t last long here. They get humbled by men (and even women) a fraction of their size and strength.  Jiu-Jitsu teaches us to listen to our bodies, to be aware of our surroundings, to use strategy and technique instead of fear and force when we are in a difficult situation, to be respectful of other people, and to never give up.

Jiu-Jitsu academies become families that nurture and care for each other. Training partners watch out for each other and keep each other safe on the mat. The relationships extend past the mat and into the neighborhoods. The idea of family even extends between academies and across geographical lines.  For example, when I traveled from Arizona to California last summer, I was welcomed at Outliers Jiu-Jitsu in San Diego as well as Claudio Franca in San Jose despite not knowing anyone there. 

The jiu-jitsu community shares a common warrior-bond that only those who have (quite literally) put their blood, sweat and tears on the mat can understand.

Jiu-Jitsu is for us, a way of life.