Hey there! Today we’re covering yet another of our “Ten Ways Jiu Jitsu Can Help With Stress Relief”, with the topic of being present. You may be wondering to yourself “What does being present even mean?” which is a great question so let’s start there.
Our understanding of “being present” begins as early as consciousness, before our minds are fully developed and consequently filled with distracting thoughts and images. Have you ever watched a newborn’s eyes move around trying to take their surroundings in? Maybe you jingled your keys around in front of them while they giggled and tried to follow you with their eyes picking up any and all peripheral motion. At that age, being in the moment comes so naturally just like how a cat takes notice of shiny objects immediately directing their full attention towards it. This is the simplest form of “presence” or being present, when you are able to focus your energy towards a single task. This ability changes as we age and our knowledge base expands in order to adapt to the complexity of our modern environment. This is in part due to the many skills we have to learn which allow us to thrive in this concrete jungle, so to speak, so it’s normal for our thoughts to wander from what we are going to eat next to when rent is due or how we’re going to study for that midterm coming up. This ability is necessary especially as we take on more responsibility in the form of school, work, kids, etc. by allowing us to handle a multitude of tasks in areas we aim to achieve success. Without this bandwidth of focus we might only be good at a skill like fishing and what fun would that be! No offense to the fishing community but you get the point.
The problem arises when the noise prevents us from being able to focus on what we need to at specific and potentially pivotal moments in our lives, perhaps an instance where you are seeking to be gainfully employed. Imagine for a moment that you showed up to a job interview. You dressed the part, your hair (or lack of hair) looks good, you smell clean, you politely greet your potential employer and introduce yourself, you start conversing, they find you funny and everything is going smoothly until mid-interview you find yourself unable to stop thinking about something a co-worker said that bothered you. It seems like you only drift off for just a second but as your attention shifts back to your future employer-to-be you hear them finish with “It’s really important to us here, do you think you can handle it?”. Panic now grips you as you scramble to come up with an answer in an attempt not to fumble the rest of the interview.
Now you probably wouldn’t allow that to happen, that’s just an example, or maybe you would… Either way, we all have moments where we get caught up in our heads and lose focus on what is essential at that moment, while it’s nothing to be ashamed of, these occurrences can have drastic impacts on our future by way of affecting our income, job security, relationships or even success in athletics. Many of us have heard of the term used by athletes “getting in the zone” and associate it with stellar performance. Furthermore, we can all agree that “the zone” doesn’t sound like a bad place to be when it comes to your job, career, relationships, athletics etc. Imagine having a switch that allowed you to turn on such intense focus whenever something incredibly important was happening. Not only would you do it, but how much better would your life be as a result? It reminds me of the movie “Limitless” where Bradley Cooper portrays a screw-up writer who is blindly wandering through life until he comes across a magic pill which enables him to guide his thoughts and energy productively and effectively re-organize his life.
This is not a complete fantasy however, many from college kids to CEO’s and entrepreneurs have been using ADHD medication to help them focus and get things done for quite some time, but what if you didn’t have to, simply by way of a practice developing the habit or the skill of channeling the power of their thoughts. There’s a quote that comes to mind by some famous singer named Mahatma Ghandi or something…
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
KIDDING about the singer part!! Although I’m sure he did occasionally sing. Ghandi spent a great deal of time alone learning to channel his thoughts which led to him changing the world with his beliefs on humanity.
You don’t have to look too far to see that this focus/distraction(or whatever you want to call it) problem exists, not only from experience but you witness it daily at the grocery store, Starbucks or even in your home. We’ve all seen that person cross a busy intersection while looking down at their phone. And who are we to judge because we’ve all been caught doing the same thing! So now we know that this problem exists, what do we do about it? For starters, it’s important to know that the brain cannot multitask. Yes I said it, and I’ll say it again “the brain is not capable of performing more than one task”. If you’re not buying it, try thinking about two separate things at exactly the same time. You can’t! You can think about one and then the other, sometimes you can even alternate so fast it may feel as if you are but you can’t actually do two things at the same time. Not without lowering your efficiency at one or the other but most likely both. If this wasn’t the case you’d be able to write a book at the same time you were doing your taxes or read a book while you were watching your favorite show.
So now that we know there is a problem with being present and that mastery of our attention could dramatically impact our lives in a positive way… What does this have to do with Jiu Jitsu or Martial Arts? The answer is simple, when you are learning Martial Arts the need for presence it at its peak, not only is there a great deal of coordination being developed and exercised but the fact that you have a partner and a Sensei or Coach instructing you helps move you towards a state of total focus.
Without an environment to develop this heightened state, Jiu Jitsu is very difficult to learn, in fact one of the main differences between beginners and experienced students mainly has to do with their ability to focus and pay attention to what is going on right in front of them. Buddhist Philosopher Thich Nhat Thanh describes this state of mind as “worrying only about the ground beneath your feet”. This immense focus is not only vital to the success of your Jiu Jitsu journey but learning to integrate such a powerful skill in each aspect of your life can be life changing. The great thing about being in an academy that values such things is that it feels good! Our distracting world just so happens to prevent us from being present all the time but the more we are exposed to this heightened state there’s no going back, and you’ll want to incorporate it into every part of your life. Think of how much better our lives would be if we gave our complete and undivided attention to each of our aspirations. There would be far fewer problems and the quality of our experiences would only be better. Having presence will allow you to:
Have better test scores
Get into better schools
Have a better job
Get paid more
Have a job you like
Have great relationships
Have better friends
Manage time better
Get more done
Have more free time
Commit more time to the things you want
Get in better shape
Have more discipline
The list goes on and on but ask yourself, how much less stressful would life be if you received all these benefits? It would be incredibly less stressful. And it’s not to say that life won’t have its challenges and stress inducing moments but when you are able to be in the moment it enhances your ability to problem solve which allows you to be more effective in each task. As a kid with ADD who used to drum on tables and couldn’t stop moving, Jiu Jitsu and wrestling helped me channel my energy as well as get rid of some of it.
Regardless of whether you have ADD or not, Jiu Jitsu will only improve your life and reduce your stress levels if you start by simply showing up to class even just to watch. One thing that we learn through Martial Arts is that the power of the mind is limited only by our imagination and effort. By learning to unlock higher levels of focus and energy we can achieve things wildly beyond what we thought possible with a relatively simple solution.
Your next step is then to find a great Jiu Jitsu gym that cares about your success on and off the mats while giving your best to be consistent. Giving yourself that time to “meditate” daily is huge for you accomplishing your goals, and that’s why many successful people like Kobe Bryant, Paul McCartney, Tony Robbins and Arnold Swartnegger, all make it a routine in starting their day to unlock their highest levels of consciousness.
You have all heard of meditation and the many positive implications in regards to relieving stress, mindfulness, mental health among many other benefits. What not every one understands is that meditation is not only found from sitting cross legged in a yoga class saying “ohm” (no disrespect intended Yogis) but it has more to do with total focus on the moment and learning to block out unnecessary and distracting thoughts. This distinction is so critical because that is exactly what Jiu Jitsu practitioners and Martial Artists learn to do on a daily basis. When this is your life, it will begin to manifest in every segment. Ever notice the almost identical demeanor of Martial Artists, from iconic legends such as Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris all the way to MMA superstars such as George “Rush” St Pierre and Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida. The reason for this is due to the fact they have spent their lives learning to control their emotions and achieve a meditative state in an effort to stay calm and solve whatever problems come their way.
While there are many reasons as to why we should train Jiu Jitsu daily or adopt the BJJ lifestyle, unlocking the power of our mind is undoubtedly one of the most important. This is necessary not only for us personally in our careers, our family or even academically but also for being able to block out the noise and be in the moment to direct our focus towards that which is truly important. Especially in today’s technologically focused world, we are in dire need of a practice that allows us to sweat and focus on our health while achieving the added benefit of “presence” or “being in the moment, which will improve our lives from the inside out.