Why is Brazilian jiu-jitsu so tough for newcomers?

When you have 200+ lbs of solid man (or woman) on top of you the last thing your body is thinking about is I gotta remain calm.

Instinctually, your body is telling you that you are in danger and that forces you to speed up your breathing and to look for an escape.

The hardest thing to do in that moment is to start to slow down your breathing, slow down your thinking and remind yourself, I’m okay.

So a few times a week, for about an hour in the morning, I have to actively tell my body that the signals that it’s receiving from the outside world aren’t real.

After all — we’re training. We’re not trying to kill each other.

Breathe — I think to myself.

Just. Fucking. Breathe.


Most of the people in my morning Jiu Jitsu classes are covered in tattoos.

I used to think that was simply because Jiu Jitsu just attracted eclectic people.

What I’ve realized, after months and months of torturing myself week in and week out, is that it’s because we’re all secretly masochists.

Most skills can be learned rather quickly — marketing, sales, event-production, photography, languages, etc.

You pick them up piece by piece — and there’s plenty of positive reinforcement.

You can learn these things in months.

In practical terms, Jiu Jitsu takes years to pick up and even then, you’ll consistently find yourself getting your ass kicked.

You need to be a glutton for punishment in order to continue with it.

You need to be okay with — no, you need to accept — the fact that no matter how experienced you are, there’s always somebody stronger, faster and more capable than you on the mat.

That it’ll be that way for years and years — likely for as long as you’ll ever be rolling for.

In most skills, it might take just a few weeks of constant learning until you finally get to a point in which you feel like you’ve done a good job.

Those moments are so few and far between in Jiu Jitsu that it feels like they almost never come.

A few months in, you prevent a black-belt from choking you out for 10 seconds instead of 5.

Or, you roll a much larger white-belt over your shoulder for the first time ever.

6 months in, your instructor gives you a stripe.

You want to cry afterwards — everything has felt so hard and like you’ve made no progress.

But you have.

It’s just so incremental that if you hadn’t used a microscope to find it, you probably wouldn’t have noticed.


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