5 Things I Learned About Life From Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a grappling sport that focuses on takedowns, ground fighting, and self-defense designed to subdue a stronger opponent. Most current jiu-jitsu originates from the Gracie family, several of whom dominated the early days of mixed martial arts fighting. Royce Gracie won 3 of the first 4 UFCs with jiu-jitsu, leading to its wide recognition as one of the most effective forms of martial arts.

This article is not about jiu-jitsu’s prowess as a fighting style, but rather how it can benefit your life in immeasurable ways. These are five things it has led me to discover:

1. Failure is inescapable

Are you on the path to achieving your dreams? If not, I guarantee that it is because you are terrified of failure. To improve at jiu-jitsu, you must put yourself in a life-or-death position literally hundreds of times in your first few months as a white belt. Tapping out to someone says “I acknowledge that my physical safety is completely in your hands,” a difficult admission for most to accept. Affliction-wearing meatheads wash out quickly because they cannot stand the blow to their egos. Jiu-jitsu teaches you to manage the humiliation and emotional dump that comes with failure. Failing at jiu-jitsu desensitizes you to failing in life, the only way you can begin to succeed.

2. There is always someone better than you

Whether your passion includes game, fitness, athleticism, writing, or fighting, jiu-jitsu forces you to accept that you are never the master of your craft. How many times have you seen a gorgeous girl on the arms of a toady guy, only to hear your friends talk derisively about how his luck or money are the only reasons for his success? It is a loser’s mindset to hate on someone because they are superior to you at something. Respecting and acknowledging mastery comes with exposure to the red pill mindset, and with exposure to jiu-jitsu as well.


3. There are no shortcuts

It is well-established that experts in any field are made through thousands of hours of deliberate practice. Some people are better natural athletes or learn moves faster, but the true beasts at my gym are the guys who have put in the longest hours on the mat. Learning jiu-jitsu emphasizes the dedication necessary to achieve proficiency in any area. You can passively await a one-in-a-million stroke of luck, or you can take ownership of your position today and begin logging the hours required for mastery.

4. Your body is your greatest physical possession

Once you see the wondrous things you can do with it, it will deeply trouble you how little most people respect theirs. I ate well and worked out regularly before I began training, but seeing what some people can do on the mat drives me to optimize all aspects of my health. Older guys say that you only realize how much of a gift your body is when it begins to break down. I believe them and want to delay that process. Jiu-jitsu helps to redefine your commitment to your own body on a daily basis, amidst a population that is 2/3 overweight or obese.


5. Your daily grind matters less than you think

The Fight Club narrator insists that fighting turns down the volume on the rest of your life. This is true. Once you are put within a hair’s breadth of serious injury on a regular basis, nagging things in your life lose significance. Lost your job? You’ll find another one. Girl not interested in you? No big deal, there’s plenty more. Having to modulate your stress level under extreme duress rewires your brain, giving you the ice in the veins required to excel in any competitive environment.

Jiu-jitsu is a beautiful art, one I would encourage anyone to try. Gym owners may try to sell jiu-jitsu or other martial arts as necessary to defend yourself in fights or prevent bullying, but this is a tertiary benefit at best. More importantly, from its lessons on failure, dedication, prioritization, and mastery, Brazilian jiu-jitsu teaches you how to become a better man.

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32 thoughts on “5 Things I Learned About Life From Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu”

  1. Great post. It was the same thing for me throughout my life training in boxing. I’ve sparred a lot of top amateurs and a couple pros over the past few years, and the first two things you listed are absolutely true. You’re always going to have failures and setbacks and there’s always going to be someone who can get the better of you.
    Combat sports teach you a lot about your life and how to surmount obstacles. And there’s nothing like getting a good ass kicking to put things in perspective!

    1. The same with the Shotokan karate concept to seek perfection of character through training to be able to surmount any obstacle, tangible or intangible.

    1. I started at 44, life has changed 180 degrees! It really became a way of life!

  2. Jujitsu taught me (in addition to the excellent points discussed above) to ignore the bluster and noise, and to focus on the essentials. There are things in this world that can hurt you, and things that annoy and distract you, and they are rarely the same. Jujitsu trains you to filter out the crap that doesn’t matter.

  3. This is one of the best articles that I have read on the site. As a practitioner of BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu), I can tell you that there are countless life lessons that you learn from this art. I takes much perseverance, humility and patience to succeed. BJJ is a lifestyle, and it’s true that the D-bag types wash out quick. People can wear the most thuggish gear, and post tough pictures online, but here is no hiding who you really are on the mat. And believe me, who you are as a man will show when you roll. I’m 35 years old, 220lbs, and I can honestly say that I am more fit today, than when I was 20 in the Army. If there is a gym that teaches BJJ or other combative arts in your area, give it a try. You will be surpirsed with the confidence and physical fitness that you will have if you stick with the program.

  4. My biggest struggle since taking up jiu jitsu is trying to find a balance with lifting. Since I’ve been rolling 4 times a week, I find it hard to get in even 1 good lift a week. My diet is on point but I barely recover from jiu jitsu workouts so trying to maintain decent lifting program has been really tough (and I’m over a year into BJJ).
    Any tips from others who had to balance lifting/rolling/recovery are greatly appreciated.

    1. I’m rolling 3x and lifting twice a week and that’s an issue for me too. If there is a fool-proof solution I’ve yet to find it.
      What I will say is that it’s better to be tired from a your heavy squat or deadlift day going into Jiu-jitsu than vice versa. One forces you to use technique over athleticism by slowing you down a bit whereas the other just makes for shitty lifts.

    2. 1.You are using way too much strength and not focusing enough on technique if BJJ takes that much energy out of you. You need less heavy sparring, more light sparring, and more drills.
      2.Find a few good training partners and do 1/3 of your sparring at 1/2 intensity or less.
      3.Take one day a week and do drills only. NO sparring. Use some cheap puzzle mats and do this at home or at your training partner’s home.
      It will take time and a lot of discipline but eventually you will notice your BJJ skills improving at a much faster rate than others.
      Your lifting should be olympic lifts, powerlifting, crossfit, etc. NO bodybuilding! Bodybuilding is counterproductive if you plan compete in BJJ.

      1. As far as strength training goes, you should adopt as spartan a program as possible. Use multijoint movements using about two movents.
        That should start you out until your system allows you to use more.

    3. thanks AVW/Scott, appreciated. That’s along the lines of what I thought (focus on technique more / OK to roll while sore bc it forces use of technique) but the confirmation helps focus my energy on what I need to do.

    4. You might try analyzing your rolls to find out why you’re working so hard.
      Commenter Scott mentions technique, and one aspect you might consider is whether you’re continually having to fight from weak positions. That can happen if your postures are poor, or if people are imposing their game on you (ferinstance, because you’re not imposing your game on them first, or you’re not gripfighting effectively and continually, so you get off to a bad start and get behind in the flow). If your fundamentals are weak (for instance, you’re not controlling their hips), you’ll be chasing them alot and you’ll waste a lot of effort by (say) working hard to pass guard only to be reguarded. You might not be blocking and framing during transitions, with the result that your partner consolidates control and you get pinned and flattened out, and have to escape from tough situations. Or, perhaps you don’t have a plan; if not, you’ll be doing a lot of reacting instead of acting.
      My suggestion would be to get an instructor to critique some rolls, and maybe your partners can shoot some video. Instead of focusing on particular sweeps, submissions, etc, ask for input on the bigger picture.
      If that doesn’t apply to you, no offense intended – I’m just throwing out some possibilities to think about. Good luck with improving your game!

      1. I’ve always trained with people who believe that if you aren’t exhausted by the end of sparring, you either a.) not trying hard enough or b.) not rolling with good enough people. We used to do exercises in between rolling to intentionally wear ourselves out and thus force us to rely on technique and not strength.
        Damn, all this BJJ talk is making me jones for rolling. I have not found another activity that even compares to the adrenaline and testosterone rush.

        1. I’m of the opposite mindset. I find that exhaustion lowers the quality of training and interferes with learning, and when we get tired we start dropping whole belt levels. I don’t think fatigure-impaired practice can lead to good technique.
          That’s why I favor keeping the warmups relatively light. IMO, conditioning drills should come at the end of practice.

        2. I think it is good to train in a variety of conditions but I tend to agree because physical exhaustion essentially means mental exhaustion and you aren’t going to increase your skill level as much under those conditions. Pushing yourself to the limit makes more sense when preparing for competitions.
          Also, just to clarify for Ed, when I suggest doing nothing but drills for a day I’m talking about drilling technique not conditioning drills. Drill the fundamentals over and over until it is insanely boring and your body does the moves without having to think about them at all.

        3. That’s what I meant. Spend the first half of practice fresh getting the muscle memory tuned in through repetition. Conditioning and practical application however, people, especially newbies, tend to try to use strength over form. If you are too tired to just bench press a guy off you, you have to rely on the hours of shrimping drills you have done.

  5. Great article. You didn’t mention the huge bonus it gives you in sexing a woman, though 😉

  6. Great post. I wholeheartedly agree for the most part. However, I don’t think that one puts themselves in a “life or death position literally” when training in any style of civilian martial arts. The samurai bushi documented this during the peace of the Tokugawa. They became very concerned about losing their edge, b/c they knew they would not lose their life training w/ bamboo swords or while in a physical contest in the safety of their own school.
    Adachi Masahiro, around 1800, said “there’s no warfare going on, so there’s no trying out combat with real swords, and consequently there’s no way to know how strong or weak our minds will be, or how excited or calm, where real swords are used. Nevertheless, when you train your mind under ordinary circumstances, your mind will be calm and unafraid even with real swords.”
    Interestingly, I read an article on Sergeant Paul Cale, who implements MMA & BJJ for close combat training to special forces. Someone asked if MMA sport comes close to the battlefield. His reply was it doesn’t come close, and that nothing comes close to the battlefield.
    I liked your point on how the mechanics of tapping out is so beneficial in one’s development and dealing w/ the ego. I’m actually working on a blog post on why I believe BJJ is the best martial arts for an Entrepreneur. Tapping Out is unique to BJJ and teaches a student a lot mentally. Tapping out I think has fundamental principles that parallel on why martial arts students and zazen monks bow.

  7. Great article. The full contact combat sports (wrestling, martial arts, boxing) may be the last bastion of pure masculine virtue left in athletics. Which is why, of course, it makes wusses uncomfortable. It’s just you and your opponent. No buffers, no bullshit, no inflated egos. Win or lose, any man who gets in the ring is a hundred times better than those who lack the guts to risk defeat.
    If it were my world, I would bring back the medieval joust…now there was a real contact sport. (Hmmm. Now there’s an idea). Two armored knights riding at each other at full gallop with extended lances….just imagine that. Then you’ll see how far we have declined from our ancestors.

  8. I am a 26 year lady currently in a very difficult state. Friends have been telling me to try this sport as it will realign my focus and will help me cope with this problem. I hope things will get better after I signed up for a class.

  9. Even at 52 and it has made many of the changes in me that you describe. A brilliant coach by the name of John Will once told me you can get out of any bad situation, but usually it must be done inch by inch. It is a metaphor for life. Great post!

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