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Jiu-Jitsu as Philosophy
I discovered Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu because of an overabundance of restless energy built up inside of me. I had been in college for a little over a year and it had been 2 years since I competed in any physical competition. I had been a hockey player since I was 6 years old and this was the longest I had gone without some form of physical competition in my life. I was still a very active person and often worked out 5 to 6 times a week. Yet although I was physically active, there was something missing.
Having recently moved out of my parents home for the first time I now found myself without someone to hold my hand and tell me what to do. The freedom was intoxicating, but like a drug, it was all too easy to abuse.
Since I no longer had someone nagging me to do my chores or study for exams, I fell into an extremely bad pattern of procrastination. I would leave 10 page research papers till the night before on a routine basis. I got the work done, but it was rushed and could have been much better quality if I had spread the work out over a period of time. It would have been a much more enjoyable process as well.
I felt that my motivation to study and complete my school work had left me. I began to question whether college was the right decision for me. I felt that I was wasting my life. That I was not really doing anything real. As an English major I spent so much of my time reading books and analyzing their meaning that I yearned for the physical. I wanted to do something that would get my heart pumping and bring back the excitement of overcoming a physical challenge.
This led me to a Naval Recruiting station and after 45 minutes inside of the place I walked out with new-found purpose. I was set and determined that I was going to discontinue my academic studies and pursue a childhood dream of becoming a Navy SEAL. The SEALs are known for being one of the military's most difficult divisions to gain entry too. Yet I remained confident. My motivation renewed, I set out to make my new life-plan a reality. I began to run 3 days a week and swim 2 days, increasing the distance steadily each week. I incorporated a intense calisthenic regimen, designed by a former Navy SEAL, to build my strength and agility. I repeated this 4 times a week.
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After 2 month of training, my physical performance had increased tenfold. My 1 mile run time dropped from 8:14 seconds to 5:48 seconds. My max pull-ups in one minute increased from 4 to 16, and my push-ups from 29 to 54. I could now hold my breath underwater for 3.35 seconds. 5 seconds longer than Harry Houdini's lifelong record! But something would prevent me from signing the dotted line and shipping off to "BUD/s" (Basic Underwater Demolition/ SEAL) to get underway with my quest to become a SEAL. My parents would not condone the idea. They were convinced that this was a terrible decision on my part, and that I would regret it the moment I was in the program. At the time, I didn't feel as though I should make such a huge decision without my parents support. So I agreed that although I could not promise that I wouldn't eventually join the military, I would promise to finish my undergraduate degree before I thought about it again.
With my special operations warrior dreams shelved for the time being, I was again confronted with boredom and restlessness. The military still very much in the front of my mind, I decided that I would slowly prepare myself for boot camp while finishing college. I joined the rifle club at my college in order to learn how to shoot a rifle, since I hadn't even held a real gun before. I also started to research many different forms of martial arts. My research led me to the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. Some friends and I began to watch the sport weekly. Needless to say, I was hooked.
As a novice to the sport, I displayed many of the same ignorant notions that most people have about fighting if they have never trained in a martial art before. I thought that the kickboxers and boxers would all win because, why wrestle a guy when you can punch him in the face?
Yet, again and again I was surprised to see world champion kick-boxers get thrown, or dragged, to the ground and submitted. The one thing that impressed me the most about it was how patient and calm they appeared while doing it. I knew that this was what I needed to learn in order to prepare myself for the military.
Leave Your Ego at the Door
I looked up the closest gym that offered Jiu-Jitsu classes and found one 20 min away from my home. I arrived the first day very nervous, but determined to prove to everyone in the building that I was just as tough as any of them. I had it in my head that because I was in such good shape, I would be able to pull off the moves that I saw on TV and surprise everybody in class with my amazing skills!
This delusional fantasy was abruptly dispelled that first class. I went home aching and had bruises on my neck from being caught in choke holds many times, but I would not quit. I kept coming back for more and slowly I began to learn the philosophy behind the art.
I learned that force is not always the best option. That patience is extremely important, even in the most dramatic of circumstances. I began to learn that Jiu-Jitsu was about technique and the flow of that technique, not force. When combing all three for example, you patiently wait for your opponent to make his first move, as soon as he moves you follow his momentum and use it against him to sweep him, you flow seemlessly from the sweep directly to a submission hold and force the opponent to tap, all the while using perfect technique to allow no room for counter. These principles are what make Jiu-Jitsu the martial art that allows a smaller man to dominate a much larger and stronger one. It is intelligence over strength. Calm over aggression. Patience over haste.
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Jiu-Jitsu In Normal Life
These same principles that make for a deadly effective Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, also are extremely applicable in all other facets of life. The longer that I trained in Jiu-Jitsu, the more calm and at peace I found myself in the other parts of my life.
I found that the same patience that allowed me to survive in a choke hold just long enough to escape, also helped me to overcome the little things that used to bother me throughout the day. If a customer was rude to me at work, I was patient with them. If traffic was making me late to school, I was patient. Just like trying to survive a choke, I would remind myself to calm down, relax and breath. Within seconds I would realize that the catalyst to my annoyance had ceased to be an issue. After a brief moment of deep breathing, increasing the oxygen supply to the brain, it is incredible how much smaller a problem will appear.
I found the same benefits with the emphasis on honing ones technique and the flow of that technique. I began to allow the end to problems in my life to flow naturally, rather than trying to force a solution. When one forces a solution, they hardly achieve the outcome they desire. Instead, they are left tired and wondering how they failed to achieve what they set out to do. When one approaches a problem intelligently and lets the solution flow naturally, it seems almost effortless. Just as it appeared effortless on the part of the Jiu-Jitsu practitioners submitting their opponents.
While I do highly recommend training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to anybody of appropriate physical health, it is not necessary to train in the art in order to achieve the many exterior benefits that accompany it. Simply remind one's self to be patient. Approach problems intelligently, allowing the solution to flow from that intelligent approach rather than forcing it. Above all, remain calm, even when life presents chaotic situations that would unnerve even the surliest of men. By putting a conscious effort into cultivating these three principle you will find that your life is more enjoyable and less stressful. Problems that puzzled you in the past will begin to unravel and their solution will present itself. You will find that this clearheaded approach will help you, not only with the problems, but also with taking in the more jubilant moments of your life as well!
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