One Saturday morning in 2010, I drove 8 miles from my house to a new boxing gym recommended to me by a personal trainer friend. Shortly after entering, I found the boxing half of the building empty. In the other half, less than 10 grown men were rolling around on the foam mat-covered floor. They paired up and were giggling. Such an unusual activity may give pause to some people in a new place. But, the men were approachable and friendly, so I asked where the boxing coach was. One of the men unassumingly but confidently told me there was no boxing that day, but I could try “joo jitt sue” if I wanted. I did not plan on dry humping another man that morning, however, I have always loved trying new things, so I obliged.
That day, I learned the basics: guard, passing guard, mount, passing mount and side control. The teacher displayed a patience that I can only aspire to. And so began my Brazillian Jiu Jitsu (“BJJ”) career.
Last summer, I moved to the sophomoric blue belt. Simultaneously, I had the realization of how little BJJ I know and the gaping difference in skill level between me and black, or even, brown belts. This, along with, at least a shade of ability are signs of progress. Albert Einstein once ingeniously said, “I know one-percent of one-percent.” That quote sums up my BJJ competence after being “on the mat” for over a year.
I still “roll” twice a week with my BBJJ friends. Instead of posting up at a local watering hole after work, I go to the gym and try to choke and not get choked. The others in the school and I have a bond similar to the one I have with my high school football teammates. We call each other “brother.” It can seem cultish at times to the outsider, but it’s comforting to the practitioner. BJJ’s competitive aspect has its ups and downs, but “rolling” is cathartic all of the time.
Previous to starting BJJ, I had several misconceptions about it. I grouped it with all other martial arts. To me, it was for violent guys looking to get rid of their inferiority complexes. I thought people who did it paid $100 per month to be upgraded to the next meaningless belt. I thought it was for people who wanted to learn self-defense and then take their new and improved machismo to the bar. I was wrong.
The emotional, mental, physical and personal benefits of practicing BJJ are too numerous to write. From a physical standpoint, BJJ is as strenuous of a cardiovascular workout as running sprints for double the amount of time. From an emotional and mental standpoint, BJJ practitioners are generally compassionate, disciplined, patient, approachable, stoic and assertive, but never aggressive or violent. Surprisingly, a peaceful and unassuming disposition is the most commonly held trait among BJJ practitioners.
This seems counter-intuitive and I am yet to grasp the biological reason for this, but I am far less likely to get into a physical altercation than before I started BJJ. If I ever meet you, and I seem “on-edge,” there is a solid chance I have not been on the mat in more than 3 days. What’s more, these benefits carry over into my work and personal life making my judgment better in everything I do. I am better at life when I do BJJ.