The greatest benefit of BJJ

Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general—Mark Rippetoe

Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.—Dan Gable

On my first day of seventh grade a bunch of kids were taunting a boy named Mike. I wanted to fit in so I joined in with my own jeers and was swiftly rewarded with a bloody nose. Mike didn’t take kindly to my mouth so he punched me in the face.

A few months later I got hit in the face again, this time by a scrappy kid whose name nor motive I recall. He walked up while I was talking to a friend. Next thing you know, bam, he punched me in the face! What had I done to anger him? I have no idea, but I had witnessed him mounted on another kid, beating him MMA style behind the gym, so he was the last guy I wanted to tangle with. I sheepishly walked away amid his taunts, relieved he didn’t come after me.

I had a third incident that year, this time with a rather corpulent boy named Albert. Kids would tease him, calling him Fat Albert. I never participated in that, having learned my lesson with Mike, and in fact, I didn’t willfully cause the grievance. He accused me of cutting in front of him during line-up in PE so he pushed me to the ground. Perhaps because all the other kids were watching I reacted uncharacteristically: I got up and pushed him back (although the only thing that budged was the inner-tube around his midsection).

Now he was really mad so be backed up 15 feet, and using his considerable mass, bull-rushed me. I have no idea where I found the presence of mind, but I stepped aside at the critical moment and extended my foot, tripping him. He hit the ground like a hay bail being dropped off a truck. To my relief the teacher intervened, not only saving me from the destruction that would surely have followed, but allowing me to bask in the cheers and back-pats of my classmates as Albert and I were escorted to the principal’s office.

What was it about seventh grade that would prove so violent? Who knows, but I’ve never been in a fight since. I’ve had a few tense situations in my life here or there that could have escalated to physical altercations or worse, but mostly my life has been uneventfully peaceful. My guess is that most people, even those that train martial arts, have rarely if ever had to use those skills in a fight. Most of us live in safe communities where the threat of violence is extremely rare.

So the question begs: Why do we train?

In my view, the single greatest reason to train Jiu Jitsu is not self-defense (even though it’s a phenomenal art in that regard), it’s the development of a strong, adaptable, and resilient mind and body. Those attributes have profound carryover to the entirety of our lives.

The process of becoming skilled at Jiu Jitsu requires a physical and mental adaptation that gives us much more than joint locks and chokes. It enables us to become comfortable with discomfort, it encourages dynamic problem-solving under pressure, it teaches us that we are far more capable than we think we are, and that our bodies can be pushed well beyond where we believe our max threshold is.

If the Zombie Apocalypse comes, our survival will be much more influenced by our general physical and mental capabilities than our ability to choke out an undead with rotting flesh (although admittedly that might come in handy from time to time).

Having more strength, stamina, confidence, and adaptability are useful in every realm in our life. Learning to blend with someone’s attack can be applied universally. Those things are far more useful and encompassing than any one particular self-defense skill.

That’s the real benefit of BJJ.

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