What’s in a lifestyle?

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is still an ongoing occurrence in my life happening anywhere from twice to 6 times a week. I’m on session 143 now and a four-stripe white belt. I can assure you I do not feel remotely near what I’ve been recognised as. Things don’t really flow and I haven’t sparred with anyone to the point of applying an effective submission of any kind.

I’m not a fan of arm-bars as my first injury in my first class of BJJ almost 4 years ago now was an arm-bar by an equally wide-eyed beginner who didn’t understand the concept of tapping out. Things can go from ok to not at all ok very quickly!

And yet – here I am. Broken away from the initial 100 sessions and now looking into doing some competitions. The nervous feeling I get when I head into the competition class is both stressful and exhilarating at the same time. Some days I can stomach it and just get my butt to class:

I have this mini goal that I must do even when I really don’t want to go. Just touch the door handle. That’s it – then you can go home. Thankfully, I have never gone to the door and not open it.

That said, some days I do find the mind gremlins get over excited at the thought of failure and “having my ass handed to me” to the point that I opt just not to go. And that’s perfectly OK. This isn’t a quick-fix scenario: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a consistent part of your life, whether you go once a week or five times a week.

In my last session, Professor Lagarto imparted some words about how involved you should be with BJJ.

The term “lifestyle” gets brandied so much in a lot of marketing hype across various industries in a bid to make you part with money for an ideology that often is misaligned with who and what you stand for. Once they’ve got your money, it’s up to you to figure out the lifestyle bit.

Good luck with that skinny tea diet/lifestyle.

A good question to ask yourself in that scenario is: “Can I see myself still doing this in 2 years time? 5 years? 10 years?”

If the answer is no – it’s not a lifestyle. It’s a quick endorphine hit.

So, back to Professor Lagarto. I won’t try to repeat what he said as I have the most shocking memory known to mankind, instead the parts that really resonated with me come around the concept of how we live day to day. The lessons and mindset from BJJ set us up for a far more calmer outlook with the rest of our lives. If you keep on showing up, whether you feel like you are or not, you’re learning.

Over 100 sessions later, I still feel like a complete novice, but when paired with someone who’s just started or even a few stripes up, it’s amazing that there are movements I’ve done so many times that they’re set in somewhere subconsciously and can be shown almost instinctively. Nothing complicated, mind! But being able to help someone else in that scenario leads onto always wanting the best for yourself and others.

Next, the very physicality of BJJ causes you to rethink your social life. Going out and drinking to excess the night before a class is probably the worst thing you could do.

If the increased heart rate and utilisation of all your body muscles doesn’t cause you to puke, getting knee on belly, stacked when trying to pull a triangle submission, shoulder pressure as your opponent is trying to do a move from side control, or just the very nature of any movements required may well do. At the very least your performance will suffer considerably.

Whilst it’s true, I am a DJ and a complete and utter nightowl, I’m one of those weirdos who enjoys a good night out on unlimited lemonade/sprite. I can have a drink or two but if it’s any more it’ll usually be due to social anxiety and trying to shut up the butterflies and mind gremlins. BJJ means when I’m out, the very idea of missing a class the next day (if I can get home before 2am) is ludicrous.

What he basically alludes to is, if you have found and cherish the importance of BJJ so far as your mental, physical and spiritual challenges and clarity you get when on the mats, it’s the very best foundation you can have when it comes to living a fulfilled life.

London’s a pretty stressful city at the best of times and recreational drug use in some circles is as casual as a pint of beer. Having worked in the events industry for over 15 years, I’ve seen the entire spectrum from brief encounters through to recreational users all the way to people needing rehab and any faction of that really has no place being associated with BJJ.

A safer form of escapism comes in the form of trying to out manoeuvre and choke or submit your friend on the mats. Emphasis on your friend. We’re not trying to kill each other – obviously.

With all that said (there was more, but I feel this covers most of it) the idea of being able to come to class anywhere from once to 6+ times a week, I’ve already been doing for a year and 5 months. There’s no view to stop. This isn’t some falsified “quick fix”, as there’s no problem to start with!

Now, it doesn’t necessarily need to be BJJ. There are loads of different martial arts out there and other disciplined activities that would suit just about anybody. The idea of it being a regular occurrence in your life, so much so that not doing it feels as wrong as having not brushed your teeth that day, is what’s important.

That’s what makes it a lifestyle and could quite literally save your life.

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