Although it has become more mainstream in recent years, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is still alien to many people and the core most important lessons from BJJ are underrated. From the outside, it is clear to see that Bjj will help you become fitter and stronger. Once you start training, however, you begin to understand the most important lessons that the sport has to offer. These lessons are not focussed on physical benefit but rather on mental development. The true benefit of Bjj is only understood by those who step foot in a gym but I will try to outline the 4 most important lessons learned in Bjj.
Most Important Lessons From BJJ
Bjj is a full-contact martial art. There is no hiding from physicality in the sport forcing you to develop your offensive and defensive skills every time you train. Repetitive, live sparring results in skill progression which in turn improves your practical self-defense skills.
When you first start out, it can be frustrating to have partners manipulate you and submit to you. However, after a short amount of time, lower-ranked students will enter the gym and you will find yourself controlling them with ease. Seeing your own progression and having the ability to hold your own provides a huge amount of self-confidence in your abilities. Bjj may not always the best means of defense in a real-life altercation. However, having the ability to control where the fight takes place, and having a decent understanding of ground-fighting puts you far ahead of those without any formal training.
In order to improve in Bjj, you must put yourself in uncomfortable positions repeatedly and work your way out of them. Although this might not seem like fun, working through it is like completing a puzzle both physically and mentally. These puzzles do get easier but every time you solve one, another one presents itself in the form of a new position or technique. A great Bjj player is one who has solved more puzzles than his opponent and is ready to solve them efficiently. These puzzles can be equated to life’s own difficulties.
Bjj can represent life in a more condensed way. Things are thrown at you that you mightn’t have expected but you can lean on past experiences to try to and solve them. Through repetitive and perseverance, you will learn that life’s challenges are meant to be broken down and solved. They might cause frustration but sticking with it and figuring it out is much more satisfying that giving in. There is an old saying in Bjj that Black Belts are just White Belts who never quit. This saying is as true for life as it is for the mats.
Learning to Lose
Ego is something that is rarely on show in Bjj academies. From your first training session you will understand that some people will be better than me and that will be the case as long as I train. Even the most decorated Bjj student in the world will find their match somewhere. Very quickly, you start to understand that Bjj is about learning from failure and applying that going forward. As with many sports, you don’t learn a lot about yourself when you win convincingly but when you lose, there is always something to fix. It is often said that you need three types of partner in Bjj. One who is better than you. This will allow you to understand your weaknesses and what is next for your progression. Another who is the same level as you. This will provide stiff opposition and an equal amount of wins and losses.
Finally, you need a partner who is below your level. This is not for pride or flexing, this is so you can work on your technique with somebody who can’t stop you at every opportunity. Learning from loss is incredibly important in Bjj and can be applied in a positive way in real life.
Fear can take many forms in the sport of Bjj. For some, it is the thought of getting injured or being choked out. For others, it is the physical challenge of the sport itself. Like many full contact martial arts, Bjj is scary. No matter what your previous experience, the concept of being in uncomfortable positions repeatedly is not something which people enjoy doing. Even if you are uber-confident in the gym, the first time you compete is a whole different animal.
I remember my first competition, I was calm walking in and warming up but as soon as my name was called, my heart was pounding and my breathing became heavy. My first fight was over in a matter of minutes and I wasn’t even upset, I was just stunned at how frightened I was of the whole experience. It took a few competitions to build up my confidence to a level where I enjoyed competing. Now, the butterflies are something I enjoy, not that I fear. This is exactly what Bjj is supposed to teach you. Be it your first competition, rolling with a higher belt, or your very first class, the sport teaches you to appreciate the difficulty and enjoy it rather than be paralyzed with fear.