Ken and Matsumi waiting for class to start

The BJJ Lifestlye: Train for life!

Hi friends! We are often asked the question “what is the difference between Jiu Jitsu and MMA or other martial arts?”. Many are surprised to learn that the answer doesn’t lie in the technical differences but rather the lifestyle that BJJ or “the gentle art” offers to the individual that serves to help them better themselves, ultimately creating a ripple effect of positive energy within a community. As a sensei you can’t help but feel good when you look at the wide variety of students enjoying themselves while growing and learning, from young to advanced ages and everyone in between. Both of my parents who are seventy years of age train and are actively seeking ways to improve their fitness while keeping their brain engaged by learning new things every day and socializing with kids as young as their grandkids (my nieces) and or the age of their sons and daughters (over thirty). This is indicative of the stickiness that is imbedded in the BJJ culture which encourages all types of people from different backgrounds and walks of life to put on the gi (training kimono) and share the mats together. Throughout this pursuit of self-growth, students accompany each other on a journey of self-discovery and self-betterment engaging in daily exercise to meditation and anything that may serve to improve their healthy addiction that is grappling. While it is completely customary and ordinary within the Jiu Jitsu community, this behavior of training as a lifestyle is lost among many. Not only because it is a discipline that requires most students surrender to a sensei for guidance but it requires constant cultivation that many people are not willing to dedicate themselves to. This is unfortunate because those who do experience incredible lifelong growth in confidence, discipline, security, relationships and overall well-being. While it is easy to romanticize as a lifelong practitioner, that is not to say that the lifestyle doesn’t come with many bumps and bruises along the way. Just like the pain that comes with building a muscle that must be torn down to grow back stronger, there will be discomfort involved but many of us know that our biggest gains take place beyond the comfort zone. The saying “if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you” is certainly applicable, and if there’s one constant in life it is change, so why not change for the better. The Jiu Jitsu lifestyle will lead to a mind and body that is well accustomed to overcoming obstacles and problem solving, something that is missed upon the current generation, some would say. That is why Jigoro Kano (the founder of Judo) believed that the same approach of training and learning that one applied to achieve success in martial arts, should be applied to everyday life to create an energetic society who believed in the greater good.


As a young teen I couldn’t help but marvel over the fact that I was surrounded by all sorts of people from your landscaper to police, doctors and lawyers who all seemed to share the mats with an equal enthusiasm to learn and develop themselves. Fifteen years later I am still in awe of the unique nature of this art and its ability to bring people together, enrich the community and empower those in need. At a rudimentary level, much of the success is due to the necessity of training oneself daily. Whether your goal is to be a top competitor, become a little healthier, supplement your lifestyle this will demand training daily on some level, whether physical or mental. As a martial artist you are looking for any edge that you can stand to benefit from, whether it is a book on mindset, how to take better care of your body, a BJJ Fanatics account, weight training, flexibility, cardio and the list goes on. The truth is that there are so many areas to improve in, all requiring a lot of time, so the best way to go about it is to chip away at each category little by little every day. This results in a culture of daily training in any capacity. Maybe it’s taking a class, going on a hike, hitting the gym, etc. all based on your goals and limitations. 


Do you have a lifestyle that involves training your mind, body and spirit every day? It doesn’t mean that you need to be working out in the snow like Rocky Balboa to be successful. Sometimes learning how to rest and recover properly is more important than pushing your body to its limit. No one is the same which makes the journey so vividly different and colorful for everyone. It’s going through the process of trial and error every day in search of the best version of yourself. Just like life, Jiu Jitsu is a puzzle that you are constantly discovering the pieces to and learning how to put them together. If it were easy, everyone would do it, so the price must be high, but the juice is worth the squeeze. Those who embrace the lifestyle of daily training and improvement get the results they want, something no one can ever take from them. Not only is it incredibly rewarding to be in the best shape of your life, but having mental focus and clarity along with relationships with like-minded people is an experience in itself and only heightens your ability to pursue your own greatness. There’s a saying that you are an average of your five best friends and if your five best friends eat junk food, have poor health and party every weekend what do you think your habits will mirror? Contrast that with someone who’s friends work out regularly, work hard, read and actively strive to improve the quality of their lives. Whether you’re putting on the gi (training uniform) and slapping hands and fist bumping your partner before sparring (an intense yet gratifying feeling for those of you who have never experienced it), making better health choices, getting a massage, meditating, all these choices are the product of a life built around training and health, the ethos of the BJJ lifestyle. Not all modalities of martial arts can say this and it is a part of the reason that BJJ is exploding at an increasing rate. In the art of Jiu Jitsu a fifty year old man can start with little to no prior martial arts experience and achieve tremendous respect for his efforts to improve himself. This is significant because it allows your seemingly normal fifty year old to receive energy and vigor that many his age lack. While this is possible in other domains, such as crossfit for example, fitness gyms are usually not in touch with the concept of bushido unless the owner or leader has a martial arts background. Bushido represents the way of the warrior and as you can imagine a warrior is always seeking to add tools that will determine greater success. Bushido comes from the samurai era “bushi” meaning a person of the warrior class and “do” meaning the path or way. The truth is we are all warriors and something my sensei taught me is that everyone is fighting a war you know nothing about, that alone speaks to the inherent nature of the warrior that is within us and why we must act in accordance, looking to evolve and improve ourselves daily.


The grappling nature of Jiu Jitsu also allows you to train for a very long time unlike muay thai or boxing where I wouldn’t be able to spar very meaningfully with my parents or nieces. While this might exist in other art forms such as karate or taekwondo, nowhere is it as commonplace as in BJJ or Jiu Jitsu. You can easily get on the internet and find the vast community of Jiu Jitsu that continues to grow at an unmatched rate. A good sign that you are on the right path is that you never wake up without engaging in some form of training. Another positive is that when I am travelling to compete, coach, teach seminars or educate myself, I can almost always locate a nearby gym where I am most often received with utmost warmth and respect due to the shared love for this art that helps us unlock our potential.