Jiu Jitsu – The art of using yielding movements and leverage to ultimately subdue your opponent with joint locks and strangulation. Strikes can also be involved depending on whether it is a match, a bar fight, multiple opponents etc. You might be thinking “That sounds pretty violent for something called the gentle art, this seems more reserved for animals who like to fight. Yes and no. Sure you will find those animals in every sport but you will find this art is widely practiced and offers benefits to everyone from kids to full time working professionals. Heck the 30+ Masters World Championships is one of the largest tournaments every year.
Jiu Jitsu to me, is an incredible metaphor for how to live life and why it is able to draw kids, men, women all of completely different backgrounds and walks of life to be united by an art which essentially teaches you how to get on top of someone and break their limbs and choke them out. In this post I lay out 5 principles of Jiu Jitsu that I believe are what make it more than an art and a way of living.
Daily practice – There is no denying the importance of daily practice both mental, physical and spiritual. Some opt for traditional forms of exercise or meditation and breathing but as humans, we are social creatures. Jiu Jitsu offers a way for us to strengthen ourselves alongside others on the same journey while building a human connection with them.
Incremental progress (Kaizen) – Like most complex problems, they demand a plan that calls for progress day by day. This can be applied towards developing a skillset in Jiu Jitsu as much as it can be applied towards life and relationships. You would laugh if an engineer said he was going to draw building plans in a day, yet we often find ourselves in an “all or nothing” state of mind where we are hitting the gym twice a day every day or not at all. With anything it is better to put in an achievable amount of work daily than it is to work really hard for a few days before taking a few days off.
Gentleness controls strength – In Jiu Jitsu you will find that many of the problems you encounter are not solved with strength. Of course you must be strong and constantly look to improve your strength but seldom is it the primary solution. Oftentimes it’s a change in direction of force, a slight angle, a push rather than a pull, a redirection of energy and so on and so forth. In life too, there is flow, as kids we learn that no matter how much you cry, kick and scream that will not get you your way yet you can find adults who act in this manner.
Control what you control (stoicism) – Just because you want something to happen, doesn’t mean it can or that it should. Jiu Jitsu teaches us to look inward as we are almost always the problem we face. Most of our failures will be connected to something we did or didn’t do and as you excel in Jiu Jitsu you will find that blaming the opponent, the referee and whatever happenstance may have occurred will not bring you the result you desire. Rather you will look to address the mistakes you made (they are never ending as we are organically imperfect) and devote your energy towards improving.
Effectiveness and efficiency – It is important as a practitioner to continually seek the most results with a minimal expenditure in energy. This is done through leverage and proper timing. It is also true that in order to win it sometimes means you have to “do what you gotta do”. Jiu Jitsu requires that you put into practice, in a physical context, this exact idea where one seeks to be as effective as possible while using the least amount of energy. What you learn is that too much of one won’t work but rather a perfect balance. The same is true with too much sparring vs too much studying. While studying will certainly give you great ideas and understanding too much practice will give you only reactive and physical abilities. What one hopes for is a balance of the two while remembering no matter how efficient you are, it’s important you get the victory. Fighters like Marcelo Garcia, Xande Ribeiro and Gordon Ryan epitomize this with their technical proficiency and submission percentage.