Why Train Jiu Jitsu?

Do not look outside yourself -Emerson

On the surface martial arts is about defending oneself. While learning to defend yourself is a powerful motivator to train, it is not what keeps people training over the long term. Most people stick with Jiu Jitsu long after they reach a point where they have acquired the skills necessary to defend themselves. 

Training martial arts has a very individual feel to it. Day-to-day life does not always offer an individualized experience. Playing well as a member of a group is a very important part of being a fully developed person, it also can buffer your personal experience and sense of accountability or accomplishment. You can’t take credit for the group, nor should you. Jiu Jitsu offers an honest and personal experience unlike the rest of the world. You come in, not just to improve your ability and keep your ego in check, but to enjoy your process and path. 

One thing that you cannot escape in the public realm is that luck sometimes plays more of a role than we wish. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is not about luck. It is about effective skill under adverse conditions and the ability to reproduce it as needed. I think a key question that martial artists are addressing with their practice is “how well can I fare in an adverse condition, just myself alone?” One of the unhealthiest ways to seek the answer is to look to an outside source for the answer. Your answer should come from the cumulative experience of your practice. Your practice is where you find your best answers to your greatest struggles. 

Emerson believed that all people contained genius within them. Not an innate genius that remained idle and intact until you pressed the gas, rather a potential to be discovered. Hard deliberate work is required in order to see what that genius expressed looked like. It is genius earned and developed, not genius on command. And like many things that are not used, your genius can grow stagnant or worse: it will never be expressed if you do not extend yourself to develop it. 


There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. -Emerson

One of the greatest strengths of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the ability see where your skill is at right now. This feedback is continually available due to the remarkably safe nature of Jiu Jitsu practice. There is an old phrase in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, “the mat is a mirror”. It not only means that on the mat you are able to see exactly what you can and cannot do, but that it also shows you who you are. If you give up easily, the mat shows it. If you are tenacious, the mat shows it. Whether you are timid or bold, scared or brave, of a weak mind or a strong one….. it all comes out in training. 

One constant that I have seen in training is that who you are on the mat is who you are in life. I have not seen a lion in training who is a lamb in life. I am not talking about winning or losing, I am talking about the path you take to get there. It is much easier to discover something unfavorable about yourself on the mat than it is in life. Succeeding or failing in a room full of others, all training together that understand this and are there for the similar reasons, is a different experience. It is among this group that you will find accountability and an extension of the mirror the mat provides. A consistent theme I have seen in Jiu Jitsu schools across the country is that they attract a diverse cross section of people from all walks of life. They are all there for the same thing, the chance to train and make good use of the honesty the mat provides. Working at Jiu Jitsu doesn’t just stay on the mat, it translates over to life, and it is inescapable. If you show up and train consistently you will get better at Jiu Jitsu and it will carry over into your life.


You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself. -Galileo

In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu we say: “make the Jiu Jitsu fit you, not you fit the Jiu Jitsu”. Too often people have the wrong frame for learning. There is a master whom they aspire to be. Jiu Jitsu helps you understand how you personally approach and solve problems. For me as a teacher to insist that you solve the problem my way, would be for me to limit your growth and potential to only the solutions that have worked for me. You need a teachers guidance and support, particularly at the beginning. My goal however is to help you find your style, not mine. I can’t teach you to swim. I can show you how I swim, I can talk about what it is that makes me swim, I can break down the individual movements of swimming. I can teach you how to drill them so that you use the correct movement at the correct time. In the end though, you teach yourself to swim. It is important to grasp this concept early because for the big tests in life, you are accountable for you. You cannot send your teacher in to pinch hit for you. 

Jiu Jitsu is about learning to trust your ability, so that when you encounter a novel and complex problem, you can solve it with a simply witty answer. That is what Jiu Jitsu is. It is being witty, clever, and confident. It is answering a problem with the perfect response, delivered with precise timing and force. Your personal practice is where cool should come from. You become and remain cool because of what you do, not because of who you know and what they have done. You find this in your personal practice on the mat. Here we champion the individuals work and struggle, not the individual. When the wrong thing is championed, (the individual as opposed to the hard work that got them there), we end up with the mistake of believing that value is something that is handed to us by some outside circumstance, rather than something we earn through our efforts. It is here that people mistakenly start to lose belief in themselves, their potential, and their ability to actualize it. Praxis, your Praxis, is your commitment to realizing your potential through a consistent focused effort that you drive.


If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life. -Maslow

Many things in life do not offer the one to one return on investment that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu does. You get out of Jiu Jitsu what you put into it. When you look at the accomplishments in life that you are proudest of, they are no doubt closely associated with the times that you were working your hardest or enduring the most. A worthy goal is one that you set for yourself, which you cannot currently achieve, but you become the person that can through diligent relentless effort. Too often people are focused on results, and not what made those results possible. 

What you constantly focus on has a strong impact on how you view the world. If you look at highlight reels of your life or the lives of others, you can make the mistake of thinking that those snapshots are what fill the rest of life. This sets you up to be constantly disappointed. If instead you spend your time focusing on your process and your diligent work, you will be able to look at the highlight accomplishments of others and yourself and proudly reflect on the work required to get there.We all know people that look at the accomplishments of others with a judgmental and critical eye. No one wants to hang out with that person, or worse become that person. The Kryptonite for those thought patterns is to be immersed in your daily practice. Jiu Jitsu is filled with practitioners who have genuine admiration for the accomplishments of others because they themselves understand the efforts it took to get there.

All of the time that you have wished you were chasing a goal is time wasted when you could have been actually chasing it and getting closer. You know what is good for you. You know that investing in yourself today pays off exponentially. They say that the hardest part of running is getting out the door. In Jiu Jitsu we have a similar phrase, “just get on the mat”. Once you get on the mat, all of the external world gets shut out, You are not thinking about problems that exist off it. As the saying goes, you can’t get there if you don’t get started.