by Professor Jesse Briggs
This week, after a phone conversation with my best friend Jeremy, who is 5 years my junior and the guy who got me started in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training, we started to pontificate on where we'd be had we never discovered this art. After all, we’re closing in 15 years of training. We are both the type of guy that loathes clichés like "BJJ saved my life", and while I am absolutely positive this may be true for so many individuals and we can respect that, Jeremy and I are probably too macho or something of the sort to give that much credit to anything in life. What we did say is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu definitely changed the trajectory of our lives. We both came to the conclusion we would probably be doing menial jobs, obese, and one craft beer selection from completing our journey to becoming the skinny fat guy wearing a Donegal or a kangol hat scoffing at the selection of craft IPAs at the local bars.
All joking aside, I wondered what the real benefits are for a grown adult getting involved in this sport and is it worth it? Although I have many stories of how BJJ changed MY life personally, here are some benefits that I’ve experienced that I think everyone can relate to.
Lean Body Mass.
Now this should relate to everyone. Some people require a certain body fat percent to feel good. Some people want to have abs. Personally, I could care less about either. I have two gauges that tell me I'm doing pretty good. The first is looking at pictures of my peers on social media, like the people I graduated from high school with. Seeing that staying active has made a huge difference in my appearance compared to others my age that chose different paths with less physical activity makes a difference to me.
The other is the look of surprise I often get when I disclose my age to new acquaintances. Now it may sound egotistical and superficial, but I’m telling you––not to impress you, but to impress upon you––what matters to me, and what I owe to Jiu-Jitsu. Thank you, BJJ, thank you...
The positions in BJJ over the years, from no extra effort, have allowed me to contort my body and attain levels of flexibility I didn't even have as a high school athlete. As far as mobility is concerned, it’s a liberating feeling to climb the jungle gym or a tree at the local park with your five and two-year-old kids, challenging each other to feats of climbing! (Also, a great way to bond by the way) I know this is an oddity for someone my age by the looks I often get from the other parents on their phones, but man is it fun!
Finally, as we age, one of the leading precursors to our demise is falling and breaking a hip. Training Jiu-Jitsu we not only learn to fall properly, but we spend a large portion of training rolling on the ground, which significantly reduces our susceptibility to suffering life-ending falls ("Help, I've fallen and I can't get up!" will never be your mantra).
According to Stephen Covey, the author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, interdependence is the highest level of maturity. In my opinion, nothing develops this more than the relationship you have with your training partners in BJJ. The nature of the art itself, as well as the culture, requires everyone in the room to be a leader at times, as well as a follower, a coach, and a student.
There will be moments where the night is all about you because you have a competition, or you are having a hell of a time getting a specific technique down, or maybe it’s your night to get a belt promotion and other times when you will be asked to be on the sidelines and cheer your buddies on. You start to realize how much you need each other, and gratitude is a must. If you ask me why it's because training relies heavily on actually grappling an opponent fighting back and you simply can't do that by yourself. There's an old saying that if you hurt your partner then nobody will train with you, and if you have nobody to train with, you'll never get better at Jiu-Jitsu!
All in all, there is an endless list of benefits I received for studying this martial art, including practical self-defense, friendship–the list goes on and on. The three benefits above I see in life on a day to day basis. Ultimately, I'm still a beer snob, but I'll probably only have one after BJJ with my training partners because crap–I gotta’ train again tomorrow!!!!