Why Do You Do Jiu-Jitsu?

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It’s funny how jiu-jitsu is a metaphor for many other things in life.

Case in point: many years ago, I interviewed for a job reporting to the president of a small college.  It was a newly created role that would work on the strategic projects and act as a liaison to the existing vice presidents.  Everything was going well until I asked about the president’s management style.

The recruiter took a long deep breath.  “She’s brilliant. But she’s been described as…demanding and unpredictable.  To be successful in this role, a person will need to be very diplomatic.”

“I see, “ I said.  “And how do the president’s existing staff feel about this new role coming on?”

“They actually welcome it,” the recruiter said, tugging on her pearls. “They are eager to have a bit of a buffer between them and the president.”

Despite the HR political correctness, the recruiter’s message was clear: this is a turd I cannot shine.  Run.  Run for your life.

And though my rational brain knew this job would be a nightmare, there was a twisted, masochistic part of me that said: Crazy boss? Constant torment? Buckets of stress?  Sign me up!

That’s the same part of me that loves jiu-jitsu.

Here’s my theory: to do jiu-jitsu, you have to love a challenge.  A real challenge.  Not some quick, low-risk contest, like winning Words With Friends or eating 50 buffalo wings in under ten minutes.  You have to love a challenge enough to be willing to suffer for it. (OK, you might suffer a little with the buffalo wings, but it’s not the same.)  Jiu-jitsu is a long-term, high-risk commitment that tests your physical, mental and emotional fortitude.  You’ll find out exactly how much grit you have, and not everyone wants to know that about themselves. Jiu-jitsu players keep coming back because it is hard, and because every class is another chance to get it right.

Think about it: what went through your head when you first learned what jiu-jitsu was all about?  That it would be like playing Twister, but with someone trying to choke you? That you’ll be exhausted and your classmates will drip sweat on you? That the techniques are complicated and you’ll often struggle to do them right? That it will take years of dedicated effort before you get any good?

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Did you say, sign me up?  If you’re reading this, I bet you did.


Contributed by Andrea Sexton, 3 stripe white belt BJJ in Arlington, MA

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