I’m writing this on my 20th anniversary of my own appearance on a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu mat, and on the eve of a new Fundamentals cycle at my gym Heroes Martial Arts preparing for an influx of new students and I am reflecting on all the ways that Jiu Jitsu has changed my life and all the ways it will change those who start.
Everyone has his or her own reasons for getting on the mat. For me, I first learned of Jiu Jitsu from watching Royce Gracie win the very first Ultimate Fighting Championship, but when I got in the academy a few years later with his cousin Ralph Gracie it was largely because I was looking for an activity to keep me in shape after graduating college. Little did I know how deep down the rabbit hole I would traverse, and I went from training twice a week, to training three days a week, to training five days a week, to basically spending every moment I wasn’t working at the gym, to quitting my job to devote to OntheMat and training full time, to eventually getting my black belt and opening up my own academy.
Certainly not everyone gets nearly immersed in Jiu Jitsu as I have, but everyone who has trained in the “gentle art” will attest to the effects it has had on their life.
- Jiu Jitsu has been a tremendous stress reliever over the years.
Training (and training hard) is a huge endorphin release. Jiu Jitsu is an activity that demands equally physically and mentally and most will attest to the almost natural high after a great session on the mat. Whatever problems you might have had during the day are insignificant for at least a few hours on the day, particularly on those instances where you are sparring and your survival instincts is force to kick in several times (in a simulated manner of course). It is extremely rare when I am away from the mat for an extended period of time but I tend to be more irritable the longer I am way (which may be a sign of addiction, I realize).
- Jiu Jitsu has greatly improved my crisis management skills.
Aside from forgetting my troubles when I am on the mat, Jiu Jitsu has actually affected my ability to handle stress and crisis off of the mat. Because having my survival instincts tested on a regular basis allows me to stay clam and relaxed under pressure. From there I have to think in a logical and rational matter how to navigate my way out of the situation and need both the decisiveness and physical capability to act. And if I fail at the experience I always learn and come better prepared for the next time. This type of constant and consistent training is both useful and critical in daily life.
- Jiu Jitsu has altered my body (for better and worse)
Everyone is different here, but Jiu Jitsu has helped me develop strong and healthy with definite benefits to my cardio and core strength. I am toned and carry myself in a certain way starting from my posture and movements. I believe in many aspects consistent training in Jiu Jitsu has made me feel and appear younger than my calendar age.
I have to be honest however, in that Jiu Jitsu has exacted a price on my body as well. The cauliflower ears might be obvious, but I consider them badges as opposed to scars. I do have a few nagging pains and a soreness I can definitely attribute to Jiu Jitsu. My lower back needs constant maintenance and my hands are starting to develop some lingering issues.
I have resigned myself to never being more than 90% ever, but I am fine with this, as I believe 90% of capacity with Jiu Jitsu is far better than 100% without.
- Jiu Jitsu is where I developed my closest friendships.
I have trained Jiu Jitsu for nearly my entire adult life and it is not by coincidence that nearly all of my friends I have made since I started have been involved in Jiu Jitsu. It’s not that I am incapable of understanding you if don’t train, but after hours on the mat, pushing each other to the brink and sometimes beyond the people I am closest to are the ones I share the mat with.
- Because of Jiu Jitsu I have a friend anywhere in the world there is Jiu Jitsu.
Jiu Jitsu is a great equalizer and while we are all one on the mat, off of the mat we all come from different backgrounds, professions and interests. We are united in our love of Jiu Jitsu and because of that wherever there is Jiu Jitsu we will have a home. I have found this very true in my years and my travels and I have never felt alone wherever I knew that there was always a safe haven close by.
And if I ever travel someplace where there is no Jiu Jitsu I know I will have something to share and bond over.