Hi BJJ brothers and sisters! We’re back with part five of our series on “Ten Ways Jiu Jitsu Can Help With Stress Relief”. If you’ve spent any amount of time in the art and haven’t decided to quit, you may be familiar with one of the biggest reasons to keep training. This is the reason the young kids from age four and up, who train at our academy, myself and my parents, at the age of sixty nine, continue to train and evolve together. It has to do with the many incredible “Friendships” and deep bonds that are formed on the mat between fellow practitioners. While we are all very unique and different as people who are brought to Jiu Jitsu for many different reasons; weight loss, self defense, fitness, competition, hobbyists or to learn discipline and respect, we all share fundamental similarities as humans. What many find through the course of their journey, is that the reason you started Jiu Jitsu initially, is usually not the reason you continue. Maybe you came because you originally wanted to learn how to defend yourself but the reason you are still doing it is because you discovered a passion for learning and teaching. If you don’t connect with that one, don’t worry, there are countless others. That’s just mine and some of the other instructors here. What is for certain is that all practitioners are familiar with the good feeling that follows attending a class, training, or working out and getting a good sweat. This frees you from the stresses that come with each day and rewards you with that feeling of clarity, accomplishment and the endorphins that accompany exercise. The beauty of a discipline like Martial Arts that pushes you to develop yourself physically and mentally while being surrounded by a group of people whose company you truly enjoy is that it allows your recreational student who maybe just enjoys the lifestyle, to train alongside an aspiring world champion and simultaneously work towards their goals and make progress every day. The thing is, that both people have a lot to learn from each other and can not only co-exist but benefit from the company of the other. One of our goals as instructors was to create an environment where champions and your everyday Joe or Jane could all train alongside each other and get better. So far it has been an incredible success because while you might be a black belt in Jiu Jitsu, your white belt student can be a “black belt” in a totally different field like dentistry, accounting, realty, or construction. This is really powerful because now you start to look at Jiu Jitsu as a “tribe” where everyone shares the common goal of daily improvement with each individual bringing with them their own unique experiences and areas of expertise. This makes life much more colorful and enjoyable. Many of us are excited to show up and train, knowing that we will not only receive a great workout that never gets old, but where we can be surrounded by other like-minded individuals who can teach you just as much as you can teach them. People thank me for teaching them and I always explain to them that teaching is a two-way street so they deserve just as much gratitude.
As humans, we all strive to be connected to something greater than ourselves, and that thing is the power of Martial Arts and its ability to completely transform us and the way we think and act. Of course, this would be very hard to do on your own. This is the idea of mentorship, just as a student needs a Sensei to guide them and help them, so does a Sensei. It is also helpful when the people with whom we show up to class contribute on the days we are lacking motivation or discipline and don’t want to go to the academy and do what we need to do. Sometimes it takes that friend, who can be a Sensei or a fellow student to call you or shoot you a text and say “Hey, where you been? Let’s go train!”. These moments can be the difference maker when it comes to fulfilling that promise to yourself of one day attaining your black belt. I have seen shy, introverted people come out of their shell and develop confidence due to the relationships they developed on the mat. Eventually some of them begin to show leadership, motivating other students to train and giving them the accountability, we all need. As corny as it sounds, “teamwork makes the dream work”.
Another thing we as humans yearn for is the feeling of being loved and respected. There’s no greater feeling than when you are recognized and appreciated for your hard work and effort. Good friends will do that, they’ll let you know how much stronger you’re getting, how consistent you’ve been, how much better your stamina is, we all need that little “pat on the back” or acknowledgement that we did something good. I don’t care who you are, we learn it as children when we are rewarded for good behavior and reprimanded for bad behavior. Behaviorally speaking, even when we “grow up” we are all big kids who like to play with our friends who feel good when we are complimented for something that we should have done. It also helps us to know that our actions are taking us in the right direction. As it relates to competition, that’s a big part of the reason we all do what we do, at the end of the day a gold medal is just a piece of metal, but the respect and admiration from your peers who saw the adversity you had to overcome, the hardship, the never quit attitude, that is priceless. On top of it, there is great camaraderie showing up to a tournament and having a team to coach you, support you and cheer for you. Again, we are all trying to be the best versions of ourselves and who your friends are contribute greatly to that. There’s a saying that “you’re an average of your five best friends” and there’s definitely some merit to that. If your five best friends are all drinkers who don’t go to the gym or read, much less anything to improve themselves or the quality of their lives. There’s a good chance that you also don’t do those things. If your friends, however, are all Jiu Jitsu practitioners who are health conscious and interested in improving themselves mentally, physically and spiritually it’s much more likely that you demonstrate similar habits. Many of us, especially outside the Jiu Jitsu world are not so fortunate and we allow people in our lives whose areas of focus involve partying on the weekends or watching lots of TV and playing video games. That’s not a judgement on those people who have those interests. If your goal, however is to make more money, get in better shape, spend more time with your family or anything that will improve your quality of life by reducing stress, it will take discipline, and your friends are a big part of who you are and consequently who you become.