The Personal Impact of Jiujitsu
When I first came across jiu-jitsu, it was because I was watching my little brother take a class. Once the kid’s class ended, the adults began to train, and the fact that they were all men daunted me. At the time, not seeing other women in the class intimidated me. I was nervous about beginning, as if it weren’t a sport that women should take part in. I felt like if I took the class, then my untrained body would only be “playing” at jiu-jitsu, not actually performing it. I wondered if people wouldn’t find a woman who trained jiu-jitsu too masculine, and went home crestfallen.
This indecision went on for some time until I decided that the only thing that mattered was that I wanted to learn. I wanted to be able to move around as quickly as the men in the gym, and to feel safe when I went out at night. I didn’t want to feel my pulse quicken with worry when a stranger stood a little too close at a metro station and the sky was darkening, or when I was walking home alone. I didn’t want to hurt anyone, but I also didn’t want to feel powerless. But most of all, I wanted to find out what made jiu-jitsu such a powerful and transformative martial art.
Five years later, I can easily say that the impact it’s had on me has been life-changing. I’ve consistently maintained a healthy weight even though I work forty hours a week at a desk job. My grip strength, muscle mass, and balance have all improved exponentially, and so has my confidence. I’m no longer as easily intimidated because now I know that jiu-jitsu is about properly applied technique and dedicated training, and I know that if for some reason I can’t submit someone, then at the very least I can make sure to block, defend, and escape.
Indefinitely, jiu-jitsu has altered how I view the world. Where before I used to feel like panicking the second that one of the guys achieved mount and put his weight on me, I now know to breathe and bide my time until I see an opening to reposition my guard.
In fact, before taking up jiu-jitsu, I used to have serious episodes of claustrophobia. A couple of times, when I became trapped in an elevator with several people, I shook and become short of breath, feeling as if the closeness of all those people would crush me. It was a ridiculous thought, but I was worried out of my mind because I was in a situation where I didn’t have any control.
My concept of control changed with jiu-jitsu. Before, when dealing with difficulties in my life, my heart would sink and I could become easily overwhelmed. But as I began to trust more in the power of patience and what we can achieve when we consistently, diligently, and unwaveringly want to learn something, I began to see and feel changes.
While I was learning how to predict some of my opponent’s moves on the mat and defend myself accordingly, I was also taking that long term manner of thinking into the other aspects of my life. Where do I want to be in x amount of time? What do I need to do? How should I prepare?
Even though jiu-jitsu is taught as a blueprint of how to drill your body to perform life saving techniques in pressing situations, there’s no way that practicing a skill like that ten or more hours a week won’t leave some kind of personal, philosophical impact. Without a doubt, it’s reinforced the notion that slow and steady always wins the race, and that having a healthy productive routine be a part of your life is essential to a good life/work balance.