At its core, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is about turning the realities and expectations of a confrontation onto its head. It is an art built around allowing smaller and weaker individuals to overcome larger and more aggressive opponents through the use of proper techniques, misdirection, and leverage. The art teaches you that in order to accomplish this feat you must not do what comes naturally (usually physically resisting strength with strength) but instead use your opponent’s natural tendencies against them. BJJ requires you to step back and observe how you and others react to situations and to dissect and analyze these reactions. In the process, you become self-aware of how you use your body, and you begin to master both your physical and emotional methods and expressions.
When you are experiencing defeat multiple times in every training session, it opens you up to a world of learning. It allows you to discover your physical and mental capacity, and teaches you how to overcome adversity. It develops your problem-solving skills by helping you identify obstacles and how to get past them.
Learning BJJ is a process of growth that manifests as much in the mental realm as it does in the physical. This psychological growth is integral, yet is rarely talked about outside of what it does for you in a fight or match. Many BJJ fighters won’t hesitate to tell you that the most significant differences BJJ made in their life took place outside of the mat.
BJJ has many life lessons that can be adapted to real-life situations, many of which will help get you through life’s many hurdles. We have compiled and organized the most common takeaways and tried to lay them out in a way that is approachable to someone new or uninitiated to the sport. So, without further ado, here are the 15 life lessons BJJ teaches you that will change your life.
1) Looks Can Be Deceiving
Who would win? A male soldier or a relatively small female? A 500 lb behemoth or a fairly average sized fighter? Well, if the smaller opponents know BJJ, it is safe to say they have a pretty good shot. In fact, both of those are real examples (here and here) that went viral when the BJJ practitioner showed just how unimportant perception and assumption is to an actual outcome.
The biggest, strongest, most intimidating fighter will look like a child if a BJJ artist is able to bring them to the ground. The very first UFC event proved this when Royce Gracie came out on top of a bracket of accomplished fighters with very little difficulty. This same point would be proven again and again in MMA matches around the world.
Once you start training BJJ and you are manhandled by someone much smaller (or more out of shape than you) yet more experienced, you begin to realize that there is no way of telling the capabilities of someone just by looking at them.
Many fighters avoid confrontations outside of the ring precisely because they’ve learned that you never know exactly who or what you are dealing with. This translates outside of fighting as well. An experienced BJJ practitioner approaches most things with life with the understanding that you really have to test and try things before you can understand what they are like.
2) Learn To Go With The Flow
One of the first, and most difficult, lessons of martial arts is learning how to adjust and adapt to situations and to use them to your advantage. Our natural instincts tell us to fight back in the same way we are being attacked – you push me, so I push you back – BJJ has refined the idea of expecting and working with an opponent’s energy rather than confronting it head-on.
Somebody wants to try and roll you? Okay, roll with him and use that momentum to give yourself the advantage. It is a simple concept that is insanely difficult to apply without thinking about it, and it transcends well beyond competition
Life is never perfect, and another problem is always just around the corner. BJJ helps you learn to adjust your mindset. Rather than avoiding the inevitable problem, you learn to adapt and adjust to it to minimize the adverse effects and maximize the positive. In many ways, this is the underlying aspect of many philosophies that try and promote happier and more fulfilling lives.
3) To Get Good, You Must Be Willing To First Be Bad
Ego is something you just have to learn to let go if you want to learn BJJ. To get good enough to beat and tap out a skilled opponent, you have a long road of humbling defeats ahead of you. There really is no other way. When you understand this, you begin to realize that being bad at something is merely the first step to being good at something.
Perseverance, determination, and humility are all significant aspects of a proper BJJ practitioner.
4) Learning To Teach, Teaches You To Learn
In most complicated or intricate martial arts, training your body through the motions is only half the battle. Without a deeper understanding of the reasons and purposes behind something, your ability to grow as a martial artist is extremely limited. Becoming adaptable and creative requires you to intellectually examine every movement inside and out. Teaching others is one of the fastest ways to give your understanding a swift kick in the butt. You learn to see things through new eyes and to realize new possibilities therein. It isn’t so much the teaching as it is the ability to empathize and put yourself in someone else’s shoes that provide the most significant benefit. Most BJJ practitioners will spend vast amounts of time testing and helping their peers for the mutual benefit this activity bestows.
This is a universal truth and can be learned in many intellectual activities, it just so happens that BJJ combines this intellectual pursuit that many types of people would typically shy away from, with a physical sport that encourages them to push their understanding deeper.
Many BJJ “Academies” are just that. They are centers that push academic learning in their chosen field – and with all academic pursuits, learning to learn is one of the greatest life skills given.
5) Being Uncomfortable, Tired, And Frustrated Can Be A Lot Of Fun
BJJ may be refined enough for even the elderly to practice safely, but it is anything but easy. When you give it your all, you will experience discomfort, exhaustion, and frustration (usually all at the same time) but at the end, you will likely find yourself smiling and making some of the best friends you’ve ever had.
Learning to accept the adversity thrown at you as part of reality, and finding pleasure in overcoming it, is one of the greatest gifts you could give yourself.
6) Size Doesn’t Matter
One of the main principles of BJJ is that size just doesn’t matter. In fact, BJJ teaches that even the smallest person in class can thrive on the mats. Based on their technique and skill, they can even defeat larger opponents. BJJ was developed to allow smaller, less powerful individuals to overcome bigger and stronger foes.
This teaches us so many lessons, one of which is not to underestimate anybody. People you may perceive as weak could turn out to be stronger than you know. Conversely, you should never underestimate your own abilities, even if you’re up against a mountain of adversity. Stick to you what you know, be confident in what you can do, and focus on execution.
What you perceive as a disadvantage could just be an excuse. As long as you put in the effort, make the right decisions, and execute, size just does not matter as much as you think it does.
7) Age Doesn’t Matter
BJJ training is for people of all ages and skill levels. You progress at your own pace in training, and take your time to learn the techniques and master them. In fact, many students start very young, and even seniors take up BJJ training too.
The art of grappling teaches us how to use leverage to gain an advantage over our opponents, and that we can surpass physical limitations brought about by age or other factors. What this teaches us about life is that we cannot limit ourselves to what we perceive as our disadvantages. It shows us our strengths and trains us to think logically and strategically.
— Evolve MMA (@EvolveMMA) May 14, 2020
Furthermore, BJJ training is all about the work and care we put into our craft, and not about external things like age, gender, or race. Everyone is the same on the mat. We’re all faced with the same problems, and it’s up to us to find our own solutions.
8) Technique Is Better Than Strength And Power
Another important principle BJJ training teaches is that technique will always trump strength and power. In fact, technique is your best strength. Once you’ve mastered the technique, the inherent strength you have just amplifies it. In BJJ, the smaller man can defeat the bigger man using leverage and proper technique.
In addition, BJJ training constantly puts you into situations where you have to solve problems. Escaping submission attempts, transitioning between guard positions, defending against passes — these situations all offer various opportunities to hone your problem-solving skills.
These principles have a myriad of applications in our daily lives, in whatever task we are faced with.
Instead of heading into something recklessly and without careful thought, we should always think and strategize. Planning is important, just as much as execution. Whether you’re making critical life decisions, or tackling tough situations, you need to think things through before you act.
9) You Can Overcome Adversity
Talk to everyone who has ever practiced BJJ, and they’ll tell you that at some point, they’ve all faced immense adversity throughout their journey. Struggling on the mats is common, and it’s something you will definitely experience countless times, until the moment comes that you get better. BJJ training teaches you how to deal with any adversity, and how to strengthen your mind to overcome any situation.
In your life, there will inevitably be moments of frustration and failure. You will fail countless times. BJJ places emphasis on learning through experience, and that you will never truly fail if you’ve picked up the lessons each experience offers. Every moment is an opportunity to learn something new about yourself, your craft, and it all works towards building your ability to battle through adversity.
— Evolve MMA (@EvolveMMA) August 21, 2019
Eventually, you will find the strength to power through any obstacle to achieve your goals. This sort of persistence will help you face the obstacles you come across in your life.
10) You Can’t Do It Alone
BJJ training teaches us that as much as we want to, we simply cannot achieve great things all by ourselves. A support system — your family, your friends, your teammates — is very important to every individual. In fact, perhaps more than any other martial art, BJJ relies on teamwork most of all.
The countless hours spent rolling on the mats, practicing techniques, sparring with teammates, failing and learning together, all help you develop as an athlete.
The same way that we go through life with the people we love, the people who support and help us through our difficult times, we simply cannot do it alone.
As the saying goes: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
11) It Teaches You To Seize Opportunities
We all have those moments when we aren’t sure whether to take the leap or stay where we are. After all, it always feels safe to be at a familiar place. Unfortunately, these moments of hesitation sometimes take us further away from where we want to be, because we miss some golden opportunities that could change our lives.
BJJ trains you to observe your surroundings very closely. Each time you roll, you’ll be on the lookout for opportunities to take an arm or get into a favorable position. At the beginning, it might be difficult to identify such opportunities, but over time, you’ll notice that opportunities are everywhere. And the best part is that you’d seize these opportunities without hesitating – whether you’re on or off the mats.
12) It Helps You Get Stronger In More Ways Than One
If you look at BJJ practitioners, you’ll notice that they’re toned and fit. Well, it should come as no surprise, considering how they spend many hours grappling and drilling. Besides being physically fit, you’ll also be in your best shape – mentally. This is because BJJ is not easy, and there will be moments when you find yourself disheartened and unmotivated. However, if you press on and keep going, your dedication will pay off and you’d inherit courage, drive, heart, endurance, and determination.
13) It Builds Your Confidence
When you improve in BJJ, your confidence would grow by leaps and bounds. This is because BJJ puts you in many situations outside your comfort zone, and the greatest thing is that you’d be able to figure out a way to get out of all of them. After all, there are many ways to transition, escape, and submit – it’s all a matter of finding the right timing, distance, and angle. Once you’re able to apply this to everyday life, you’d be confident in your ability to handle all kinds of situations and overcome various obstacles.
14) It Teaches You To Leave Tour Ego At The Door
As much as we hate to admit it, we can’t bear the thought of being bad at something – because we think it makes us look bad. But here’s the thing: no one cares about how you look, except you. When you consistently train BJJ, you’ll realize that it’s okay to be terrible at it and not grasp certain techniques right away. However, it’s not okay to give up just because you think you aren’t good at it. After all, practice makes perfect!
Besides that, you’ll roll with all kinds of people. And sometimes, you’ll find yourself getting submitted by someone who might be way smaller than you, or perhaps of a lower belt. Although this might make you feel disheartened at the beginning, you’ll understand that there’s something to take away from every roll and that you can learn from literally anyone who crosses paths with you. Hence, you’ll learn to swallow your pride and give everyone a chance to add value to your life.
15) It Empowers You To Take Control Of Your Life
There will definitely be moments when life gets you down. When this happens, how do you react? Do you try to turn things around and do what you can to make the situation better? Or do you throw in the towel and blame things you can’t control?
If you constantly find yourself struggling to take charge of your life, then perhaps you should consider training BJJ. This is because it teaches you to persevere in the face of challenges, and stay committed to your goals even when you’re disheartened. Also, you’ll learn that how you choose to respond and react to everything is what matters – because it’s what you have control over. Hence, you’d stop blaming external things and become a master of your own fate, as you’d be in charge of your life.
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