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About the author: Sam Joseph is a 3rd degree black belt, head instructor and owner of Buckhead Jiu Jitsu in Atalanta.

Many of us started Brazilian jiu jitsu for the same reasons. Some of these reasons include a desire to learn self-defense, improve our general health, feeling the need to do something competitive and or being intrigued by martial arts in general. These reasons are all conventional benefits of training BJJ, but as we enjoy the BJJ lifestyle, we discover a number of unexpected ways in which it improves our lives. Let’s take a look at some of the ways BJJ positively impacts us beyond the mat!

BJJ teaches us patience

If there is one thing that EVERYONE who regularly trains BJJ can relate to it is the fact that patience is required. No matter how talented someone is, we ALL have techniques and concepts that are “challenging” or take tons of repetition to get. As an instructor, the piece of advice I find myself giving the most is, “Be patient with yourself and allow yourself the chance to learn”.  The great outcome of taking this advice is that it provides practice of a skill that reaps rewards in many other parts of our lives. When we allow ourselves to learn patience on the mat, it becomes easier to bring patience to the workplace, our relationships etc - and that is a huge benefit to spending time on the mat.

BJJ helps us appreciate incremental growth

Along the same lines as learning patience, BJJ teaches us to truly appreciate incremental growth. “The belts are wide” is a common saying that speaks of the fact that BJJ has fewer belt ranks than most martial arts and athletes can spend years at the same belt level. BJJ improvement requires us to make strides in learning techniques, when/how we use those techniques and in our ability to execute them in live situations. This reality forces us to focus on and celebrate the small wins and incremental growth that are defined as we continue to improve technically, strategically and physically. The ability to recognize and our willingness to acknowledge incremental growth puts us in position to stack these on each other. That process leads to massive improvement and advancement.

When we implement this concept in other areas of our lives, it can lead to similar results. I spent over ten years successfully running outside sales teams in telecom before opening a BJJ academy and this was one of the BJJ lessons/concepts that I had the most success using. I constantly looked for and recognized incremental progress towards goals and it often inspired success well beyond what was originally forecasted and expected. By simply applying a lesson learned on the mat, BJJ helped me consistently differentiate myself and excel in the work-place.

BJJ helps us appreciate diversity and creativity

An analogy I often use when new students ask me about BJJ is that it is like building a house.  Every well-built house has a solid foundation and that foundation is very much like or exactly like the house on either side of it.  Once the foundation is there, the actual house can be customized based on the builder or the family the house is being prepared for. The furniture and decorations can also be completely unique. The foundation of a house is a solid base of fundamentals in BJJ.  Once that is established, not only CAN we look at BJJ from our different perspectives based on physical characteristics and creativity, but I believe the best academies CHALLENGE us to do this. Looking at modern BJJ, how much does it owe to geniuses like Cobrinha, the Mendes brothers, Keenan Cornelius, Makenzie Dern, Leandro Lo, Buchecha and Rodolfo Vieira doing just that.  All of these athletes are fundamentally perfect, but their games show approaches to BJJ with a view of maximizing their physical attributes and individual creativity.  Not only has this benefitted these athletes via positive results in major competitions but also they have enriched the sport as a whole.  As BJJ continues to embrace and cultivate these types of athletes, it trains us to appreciate people who think differently and approach situations from new/creative angles.  That is often the kind of thinking that solves problems and stimulates growth wherever we seek to apply it in our lives.

BJJ teaches us that focused, hard work pays off

It is often said that the difference between a light and a laser is simply focus. BJJ is a training ground that rewards focus in consistent and quantifiable ways therefore training us to be able to have “laser-focus”.  The best example of this I have personally encountered in BJJ is Murilo Santana of the Barbosa Team. I remember training with Murilo as a blue, purple and brown belt when we were both at the Yamasaki Academy. His unswerving commitment to improvement manifested itself daily.  If a training partner gave Murilo a problem in a position, he would continue to train in that position until the problem was solved. When others were socializing, Murilo was drilling or getting in extra training. Murilo was also constantly seeking out the “toughest” training partners available in an effort to push himself in a way that would yield growth. His single-minded focus saw him steadily improve at a staggering rate and he is now one of the best and most respected black belts in the world.  In a BJJ Hacks interview, the Miyaos (who themselves are known for their unwavering focus on becoming the best) named Murilo as one of their favorite BJJ athletes. It is not surprising that the Miyaos are currently spending time with Murilo at Unity Jiu Jitsu in New York City training together. Birds of a feather flock together and these “birds” are the kind that believes that hard work pays off.

While most of us may not have the same goals or are unwilling/unable to put in the kind of work that these athletes do, they do provide a template that rewards proportionately to the work we are able to put in. BJJ academies are full of accomplished colored belts who were mediocre white belts that decided to stick with it and put in the work. When I was a white belt, I could not even imagine being a black belt. What I could wrap my head around was consistently attending class, paying attention to the lessons, doing extra drilling and sparring and looking for opportunities to push myself. Focusing on that and putting in the work over time placed me in a position to enjoy success as a colored belt, allowed me to be awarded my black belt and compete successfully as a black belt. The lesson that focused, hard work pays off was years in the making for me, but it was worth it as it is a lesson easily applied in other facets of life.

As we embrace the lifestyle, Brazilian jiu jitsu offers us many different benefits. My hope is that by raising awareness of some of the unexpected ones, more of us can seek out and embrace them. This will allow BJJ to bare positive fruit throughout our lives and make us the better for it.  See you on the mat!

Issue 26 with cover star Roger Gracie goes out to subscribers this week! Get your sub from as little as £18 HERE.


May 11, 2015 — Jiu Jitsu Style