Why I Do Jiu-Jitsu

Joe Thomas

Everyone goes through periods of time in their jiu jitsu journey when they wonder “why am I even doing this?” It costs you $1,200 – $1,500 a year (or more) for gym fees and gear, you’re always sore, you don’t have a lot of time for other hobbies, etc. etc. It can leave you wondering if it’s worth all the effort and sacrifice. It doesn’t really matter what you’re pursuing, if it’s a difficult and long journey, and you can’t answer the question “why am I doing this?” you probably won’t see it through to the end.  I personally found myself at this crossroad two years ago when I was 48, and I didn’t immediately have an answer.

For many practitioners success on the competition stage is an answer to this question. I thought about that, (I have competed and find some satisfaction in it) but having the * “senior division” next to my results makes it somehow less satisfying to me. I considered that perhaps one day I could own and run my own school, but it seemed unlikely that getting my black belt in my mid 50’s and starting a school would be the best recipe for success. For some guys just being the toughest guy at their rank in their own school is reason enough to stick with it, and it might be for me too, but heading into my 50’s I don’t see that as likely to happen either.

I spent many months thinking about this question and my future on the mats. I started approaching the question from different angles and reflecting on the circumstances surrounding the times when I felt like the journey was worthwhile and I was “succeeding”. It occurred to me that I got as much satisfaction from the success of and progress of my teammates as my own. In fact, I one time spent an entire year purposefully giving up position and letting my training partners dictate the direction of our rolls, so that they could choose what they wanted to work on.  If I could see they were working to set up spider guard, I’d let them get grips and their feet in place before I started trying to pass – If they were top side control and I could see they were looking for mount, I’d make them work for it, but not fight to deny them the position at all costs – etc. The year I spent focusing on my training partners development wasn’t completely sacrificial – I did it in part so I would have a higher level of training partners to work with, but it helped me answer the question “why”.

I love to watch people grow as martial artists and as individuals and know that I played a part. My “why” is to be a mentor. That’s not the same as coaching and it’s certainly not instructing. Those might be good reasons for other people, but for me, contributing to the growth of my teammates in a more general way is what makes the journey worthwhile.

Do you want to see this journey through to the end? Do you want to get through the tough times when you wonder if it’s all worthwhile? Find your “why”. I would speculate that the less your “why” is about specific results and the more it is about big picture personal growth type things the more effective it will be. If your answer to this question is “I want to win worlds at every belt” then a few losses and tough tournaments might just be enough to convince you to call it quits.

Train hard. Train smart. Get better.

Joe Thomas Find more articles by Joe Thomas here

How Has BJJ Benefited You? Story 1

Benefits of BJJ

This story was sent in by an anonymous listener.

6 months ago I was told I was told that the odds of me walking again were slim. I was only in my 20’s but a life of abusing my body had taken its toll on me.

I was an addict, a bad addict, to any number of things. I was in a horrible depression and I weighed damn near 280 pounds, and for a guy like me who is only 6 foot tall that is dangerous. I’d been drawn to MMA for ages and wanted to get closer to the sport, its what I would spend most Saturday nights watching. I was told by doctors that there is a chance I would never be able to walk again, the joints I had in my feet and knees had given up on me, standing up was difficult,

Walking was agony, and I was still in my 20’s.

I went to rehab to detox and spent a month in bed sick, but I wanted to train.

I made what I believe to be a wrong decision, the notion to need to get in shape before trying out for class, but I did it anyway, and dropped 30 pounds in about 3 months. I’d say to anyone wanting to get involved, just try a class, and focus on your conditioning of course, but don’t feel like you ever need to “get in shape” to attend a proper class at a BJJ gym.

It’s been difficult being an out of shape, but what BJJ taught me more than anything else is how to respect your body. One of the things I’ve learned is that the gyms are far more accepting than the ideas we form in our heads about what kind of judgment they are going to pass on us.bjj Benefit01

As someone who has attempted suicide on multiple occasions, my concern was the judgement in the change room, there was no judgement.

As someone who was overweight, my concern was that I would be judged on the mats, there was no judgement.

As someone who was an addict, my concern was that my addiction would interfere with my training, and for the first time in my life I actually have something to invest myself into that means more and has benefited me in ways I can not possibly describe.

So as to how has BJJ benefited me? It saved my life, because I was on a dark path to an early death and the desire to train, quite literally, saved me.

To anyone out there who is in pain, or who is seeking something – just do it, and don’t give up, be consistent, and disciplined. If it could save me, it could, at the very least, be positive to you.

-Anonymous listener of The BjjBrick Podcast

Send in your “How has BJJ benefited you story” to BjjBrick@gmail.com