My Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Journey, From White to Blue
I started training Brazilian Jiujitsu at the ripe age of 30. I was not in the best of shape when I started, in fact it was one of the reasons why I signed up. I remember clearly how every drill in the warmup was a struggle for me; so much so that I was already tired even before the actual training session. I was the newest guy in the club and it showed. I was the guy who barely new anything. I was the new white belt in class.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or BJJ is a martial art that focuses primarily on ground fighting. It is based on older forms of grappling such as Judo and emulates some of its characteristics like using a colored belt system. It is a beautiful and highly efficient form of fighting that anyone can learn.
A black belt by the name of John Danaher summarized the art using 4 basic tenets:
1. Take the fight to the ground
2. Get past the legs
3. Improve position using a hierarchy of pins
4. Submit the opponent
What separates BJJ from other mainstream martial arts is the aspect of realistic sparring. Other arts have sparring too but the grappling nature of BJJ significantly lessens the chances of injury, especially when compared to striking styles like Boxing and Muay Thai. It is a great form of self defense and a killer workout as well.
Journey from White to Blue
My journey from white to blue wasn’t easy. It really took me a while to get a grasp of the techniques. I had this bad habit of using strength to get in and out of positions, it was not efficient Jiu Jitsu and it made me tire out real quick. It felt horrible to come to class just to get smashed by everyone. I was frustrated for the majority of my first year because I always thought that I had to better than everyone in class.
I was told that getting good in BJJ takes time and it did. My ego got bruised every time I trained, but I knew that this is something I liked and hoped that I'll be good at one day. I needed to be smart with my approach if I wish to stay in the sport. I had to be more concerned about my own growth rather than comparing myself to the other guys in the gym.
Focused learning and Recovery
I began to change my approach to training. I started caring less about the taps and took more time learning about the basic positions that worked for me. I figured that everyone's journey in BJJ is different so it's best to focus on myself.
I also thought that a 30 something newbie had to be keen on recovery. I searched online for suggestions on how to minimize injuries and to stay flexible as possible. This is when I first learned about using foam rollers and general post workout stretching. I was skeptical at first but it is nothing short of effective, it helps in getting the kinks out of my muscles and it lessens soreness the next day.
Fast forward 5 years later and I'm still here training BJJ and have also started doing MMA. My general approach has stayed more or less the same over the years. If I am to summarize the lessons that I’ve learned it would be this: Focus on what works for me, have a goal every training session and to recover the body post workout.
I firmly believe that to fully enjoy a sport we also need to have a game plan. My 3 step approach has honestly been a game changer for me and I will continue to use it for as long as I can.
What's the advice you would give to yourself starting over again in your sport?