There May Be A Reason BJJ Is Addictive

The Huffington Post has a very interesting article:

I try to explain to my wife or my coworkers or my relatives why it is so important to get mat time as much as I can where ever I can. They do not seem to understand why I would want to be around a bunch of sweaty dudes in pajamas who are doing their best to hurt me. I try to explain the bliss of feeling the epiphanies of understanding something that eluded me. It has to be similar to the feel. After reading the Huffpo article, I think I may have been accidentally oversimplifying it.

Apparently, we as humans can control our own happiness. The 9 methods the article lays out are practiced in BJJ gyms all over the planet.

1. Simply try.

In BJJ, simply feeling yourself becoming a better BJJ practitioner makes you feel happy. There is no way you can become better without putting forth effort. Thus, in essence, the entire time you are there you are trying to be happy.

2. Make happiness your number-one goal.

This follows closely with . But if you read the article a PhD psycholgist says "For example, reprogram your beliefs and values. Learn good self-management skills, good interpersonal skills, and good career-related skills. Choose to be in environments and around people that increase your probability of happiness. The persons who become the happiest and grow the most are those who also make truth and their own personal growth primary values."

BJJ manifests itself in all aspects of your life. Everything mentioned in the quote (except maybe the career related skills) play out on the mat everytime time you are on it. Thus, these same traits seem to metriculate to other facets of our character development off of the mat.

3. Linger on those little, positive moments.

It is always good to learn technique or get you own technique tweeked by a good BJJ practitioner. No one retains all info from every class or every seminar. But the tiny things you remember are lingered on for long periods of time. Not only that, even if your only training partner is the greenest whitebelt on earth, there is still something to learn. There is still something you can address in their game they can linger upon. And when you roll with them, the weaknesses that nag you relentlessly can be worked on. The things that nag, the things that linger can bother you. But just knowing that you are actually physically working on them vs. just thinking about them brings a sense of accomplishment (happiness).

4. Choose mindfulness.

We have all been in rolls where be are getting manhandled and instinct takes over. Being in survival mode/running on autopilot. Relaxing and having faith in your this not a form of meditation? According to the article:

"University of Wisconsin psychology professor Richard Davidson found in his research that a meditation practice might help to shift brain activity from the right frontal area of the brain (associated with depression, anxiety and worry) to the left, which has been found to correlate with feelings of happiness, excitement, joy and alertness."


5. Smile your way to happiness.

Who smiles more than Marcelo Garcia? Does he not seem to be having fun regardless of the competition he is facing?

Some of my most memorable rolls have been with people talking shit or cracking jokes as we competed. Rener and Ryron always say "keep it playful". It is easy to do this when you are smiling.

I remember when I was helping my kids prepare for a Judo tournament. There were other kids on the mat that were playing a little bit too much for my taste during preparation. They were working techniques but there was a little bit too much laughing and horseplay accompanying it. I am not the instructor so I just scoffed to myself. Well, during the tournament, those guys turned up the heat. They were extremely efficient and effective as they swept their divisions. I had to go and apologize to them for looking down on them. They taught me something that day that I keep with me. I am on the mat to learn, but more importantly I am there to have fun in the process.

6. Practice gratitude.

"There is no losing in Jiu Jitsu, you either win or you learn" - Carlos Gracie Jr.

The humility of tapping should be seen as an expression of gratitude to your opponent for showing you a hole in your game. Sure, pride kicks in. Sure, some people would rather pass out or have their shoulder pop than to tap. This may be true for competition at the high levels but in your friendly neighborhood BJJ gym, this should not be an option. I have learned to that all of my training partners because no matter how miniscule, I am better after the roll than I was before it.

7. Pursue happiness, find happiness -- and success.

This seems to be a combination of and . Whether you are belt chasing or competition training or just a hobbyist, simply showing up automatically means you will get better thus you will be happier.

8. Let yourself be happy.

I know too well it is often hard to make time to pursue the things we enjoy. I long to have a permanent vacation from the 9-5 so I can train all day. The real world does not allow that so I make as much time as I can. So should you.

But there is an alternate point. From the article:

"The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content."

Remember the tough guys before UFC 1? Remember Bruce Lee and his emphasis on live training vs. dead patterns? Is BJJ not this manifested? The meme of effective martial arts has changed largely because of BJJ. As practioners we must be careful of not letting dead patterns sneak into our training. We must also keep an open mind. Sorry for the digression from the main point but that part kind of hit me.

9. Practice compassion.

We were all beginners at one time. Knowing how far we have come should automatically make us compassionate towards the neophytes. One of my training partners who is a scary Judo black belt told me years ago that his job is to make me the best practitioner I can be. If he just beat me up without teaching me my flaws, he himself can never get better. Compassion seems to automatically be built in to our own self improvement in BJJ.


@bourdain 's wife (and others) describe the addiction

"I fractured my clavicle over the summer; I didn’t stop training. Of course it hurt, but the pain seemed to magically go away while I was on the mat. I suffered a partial hamstring avulsion a couple of months ago; I didn’t stop training. The doctor told me I shouldn't train for eight weeks. I heard him loud and clear, but I was back at the academy the following day. I broke two of my toes and didn’t stop training. Both times it took so long for them to heal I considered chopping them off."

I know the feeling...I train injured all the time.

She had a Neil Melanson moment though :)

Ever take a helicopter to avoid missing BJJ class?

Stephie Daniels: You recently skipped New York traffic to take a helicopter to BJJ practice. How did that come to pass?

Anthony Bourdain: You asked me a couple years back if I would ever train, and I said to you, "Hell no!'" Now, I'm like all of these other sick fucks out there. If I don't train, I'm like going through drug withdrawal. I feel miserable and worthless if I miss a single day.

It may not be an addiction at all...

It may be we are just keying in to our hunter gatherer selves... I mean, humans were hunter gatherers waaaaay longer than we have been "Westernized".

from the article:

"It’s unlikely that a world without work would be abundant enough to provide everyone with such lavish lifestyles. But Gray insists that injecting any amount of additional play into people’s lives would be a good thing, because, contrary to that 17th-century aristocrat, play is about more than pleasure. Through play, Gray says, children (as well as adults) learn how to strategize, create new mental connections, express their creativity, cooperate, overcome narcissism, and get along with other people. “Male mammals typically have difficulty living in close proximity to each other,” he says, and play’s harmony-promoting properties may explain why it came to be so central to hunter-gatherer societies. While most of today’s adults may have forgotten how to play, Gray doesn’t believe it’s an unrecoverable skill: It’s not uncommon, he says, for grandparents to re-learn the concept of play after spending time with their young grandchildren."