I recommend Brazilian jiu-jitsu to just about everyone I know. Partially because I’m interested in having more training partners but mostly because the practice of BJJ is so good at putting the rest of my life in perspective. Truly, it’s improved my life in so many ways.
And as I was commuting home from BJJ tonight I kept thinking about my favorite aspect. BJJ is really good at draining all the energy from your body. Many times tonight, I fought until I had nothing left, I got submitted, I tapped, and then my opponent let me go. While part of me wants to just lay on the mat gasping for air, there’s another part of me that sits up, smiles like I just woke up from a power nap and asks my opponent, “Ready to go?”
And we fight again, full force, basically trying to kill each other. So even when I think I have nothing left in the tank, I discover that there’s more. There’s always more than you think. I used to row in college and that was my favorite thing about rowing. How much can you empty the tank? How much can you put out when you think your body has nothing left? David Goggins, the retired Navy Seal and ultramarathon runner would say that when you think you’re done, you’ve only used 40% or what you really have. How can you train yourself to tap into the rest? Like everything else, it’s practice.
I love that so much about BJJ. The moment when you think you’ve got nothing left and you just say to yourself, “Fuck it, let’s keep going.” BJJ gives me that moment over and over again.
And when someone is behind you, trying to choke you to death, you can’t panic. Tonight, this choking scenario from the back happened to me a few times. There’s a systematic way out. I put my hand near my neck so I can protect my airway and carotid artery. Move my weight down and slide my butt to the mat. Try to come up and face my opponent.
There’s wrinkles and variations but it’s all very algorithmic. I’ve heard BJJ likened to trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube that’s trying to kill you. As a fan of cubing, I like the analogy.
So yeah, just figured I’d write a quick love note to Brazilian jiu-jitsu. It gets you exhausted, then teaches you to think systematically under pressure without panic while exhausted. And whatever other problems are going on in life, if you can discipline yourself to get through jiu-jitsu, you’ll be able to manage most other things just fine. Works for me at least.