Words by Tri
I’ve been taking judo and brazilian jiu jitsu (called jiu jitsu from hereon) for the past year and it has been life-changing. And I am not the only one who thinks this. You will notice that a lot of people who dedicate a huge portion of their time to the two martial arts find it rather meditative and life-changing. Judo and jiu jitsu are made to be lifetime sports. That is why I believe that everyone can benefit from judo and/or jiu jitsu, no matter your age or physical athleticism. The benefits of doing these two martial arts go far beyond knowing how to protect yourself. I truly believe they are legitimate vehicles for positive change in our lives. Here are the 8 reasons why doing jiu jitsu and judo are good for you.
1. Teaches you the value of hard work
When you start out you are getting thrown and submitted at will. But you will start to see that as you put more time into your practice, it takes you longer to lose, and you lose less and less. And then you put more time in you will eventually win against those that you were unable to beat before. And by that time, you are now the one throwing and submitting guys in class. Judo and jiu jitsu teaches you the value of hard work, because you actually get to see the fruits of your labor every time you spar. Your progress can be seen; it’s tangible. This lesson in jiu jitsu and judo can be taken and applied to all areas of your life. Getting good at judo and jiu jitsu is just like getting good at anything else, you need to stay the path, be consistent, and practice mindfully. Your progress in judo and jiu jitsu is an allegory for progress in life.
2. It promotes persistence and grit
For the first few months, I was getting extremely frustrated and felt like I wasn’t making any progress. I was getting tossed around like a rag doll in judo and got submitted every 30 seconds in jiu jitsu. There were many nights where I just dreaded going to class knowing that I am going to get my butt handed to me when I spar. But you know what? I started getting better. I started lasting a lot longer when I sparred. Then after a bit longer, I started submitting and throwing people myself. And right now, I am at the point where I can defeat some people much bigger than me. I wouldn’t have been able to get to this point had I not showed up to class and be willing to lose over and over again.
You have two choices when you lose, you can either get up and try again or you can quit. People who progress get up and try again. That is called persistence. That is called grit.
3. Gets you to face your fears
The fear of being physically hurt is a strong emotion that holds many people back from many of life’s more enjoyable activities. Judo and jiu jitsu does not sugarcoat the fact that they are combative sports—-pain is part of the game. And while injuries do happen, precautions are taken to make sure that you are as safe as possible. The people that stay with judo and jiu jitsu are eventually able to face their fears of being hurt, by forcing themselves to take the pain and becoming resistant to their fear of pain as a result. In essence, judo and jiu jitsu teaches you to face your fears head on, not subverting or diverting it. Once you have done judo and jiu jitsu for awhile, you will find that most of your fears of permanent physical damage are unfounded, most of the time. And that is an analogy for many of our fears in life, it is not based off of actual evidence, it is based off of either isolated one-time incidents, our emotions, and/or how we view the world.
4. It toughens you physically
Practicing judo and jiu jitsu is going to hurt and it is going to be painful (see above point). As far as physical pain goes, judo is one of the roughest sports out there. The sport places a HUGE emphasis on safety, but you are going to get thrown to the ground, a lot. That is just the how it is. But as you get thrown more often, your body starts to toughen up and absorb the pain a lot better. Then, it won’t hurt as much. This is akin to kickboxers toughening up their shins to the point where cutting down trees with their shins no longer hurts (see this video for an example).
The other reason jiu jitsu and judo make you physically tough is because of the nature of the sports. The goal of both sports is to fight until you either throw/trip the person onto the ground, choke the person into submission, or lock a joint where they have to tap out. Because of the combative nature of the sport, it makes you more physically aggressive. You have to actively try to throw, trip, choke, or lock a joint of an opponent.
5. It builds mental toughness
Mental toughness is a big reason why I continue with jiu jitsu and judo. The two sports teach you to fight through discomfort and pain. It teaches you to fight back when you are backed against the wall. It teaches you that you should not be afraid to fight someone bigger or more skilled than you. US Judo Olympian Will Dampier said this of Judo, “[b]eing thrown around makes you physically tough, but Judo also builds mental toughness; knowing you can go up against a guy twice your size and still win is a great feeling.”
6. Teaches you to be humble
No matter how big or how physically fit you are, you are going to get your behind whooped when you first start grappling. Judo and jiu jitsu are martial arts that even the playing field for little guys because it is more technique-oriented. I am 140 pounds but I have beaten people almost twice my size. Extremely fit people come into the gym cocky but walk out very humbled by their initial experience, after finding out that someone half of their size can throw them at will or choke them unconscious.
And as you continue with the sports, the humbleness that you feel at the beginning of your journey stays with you. That is because humbleness comes with the arts because you have reality staring you in the face every day, when you are beat by someone better than you. So you are reminded constantly that you are not the best. This keeps you grounded and humble.
7. Gives you confidence
Although you become more humble as you start grappling, you also gain more confidence. You are confident because you have been given skills to defend yourself and hold your own. But more importantly, the confidence you build comes from being proficient, being skillful, and being able to face your fears. Watch this video from world-renowned jiu jitsu player Andre Galvao on how the art can teach people confidence. That part of the video starts at the 1:45-1:50 part. The whole video is awesome so watch the whole video when you get a chance.
8. Helps you get in shape and become more athletic
The amount of calories you burn doing live sparring in judo and jiu jitsu is ridiculous. Judo and jiu jitsu works out both your anerobic and aerobic systems, giving you great cardio endurance. In addition to working on your cardio, the sports also help you build muscles, often in areas that are least developed. The two grappling arts use muscles very rarely used during the day—so it gives you a chance to develop major muscle groups along with muscles that you would not otherwise develop just lifting weights. I gained over 10 pounds of muscle within the past year without the aid of weightlifting; all I did was jiu jitsu and judo, with a little boxing and kickboxing mixed in. On top of cardiovascular and muscular strength, the sports also give you increased agility, reflex, and balance.
For all intents and purposes, I am not a fanatic of either martial arts; I do not spend every day practicing it and I do not compete in tournaments presently. However, the four days a week that I do go have been extremely beneficial for me. Judo and jiu jitsu are not things you have to dedicate all your time to in order for it to be beneficial to your life. You can be a casual practitioner like me and reap the many benefits it has to offer. So don’t be scared out of practicing because you feel like you have to dedicate your life to it—you don’t.
Although both sports have huge benefits, it is not practical for most people to do both sports due to time constraints, money, or other reasons. That is why you should probably just pick one or the other and stick to it. If you are one of the lucky to be able to take both, do it.
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