Abraham Maslow defined his “Hierarchy of Needs” in 1943. The hierarchy was a set of universal needs that Maslow believed had to be met in order for a person to become a fully actualized human being. Maslow’s Hirearchy of Needs were defined, in order lowest (survival based) to highest (societal based) as; Physiological, Safety, Love/Belonging, Esteem, and Self Actualization. Maslow’s theory was a person had to achieve the lower rung of the hierarchy before they were able, or “Motivated” to achieve the next level.
One of the struggles of modern men is the lack of struggle in achieving the lower orders in Maslow’s hierarchy. For most men, the physiological, safety, and to some degree love/belonging levels are provided to him without much effort on his part. Using Maslow’s theory, this lack of effort invested in the lower order needs means men have a harder time, or are less “motivated” to, achieve fulfillment in the two highest orders. Those being Esteem and Self Actualization. Looking out at society we can see the effect on men that a lack of esteem and self-actualization has caused. Basically, men need struggle to become self-actualized as humans.
I began studying Brazilian Jiu Jitsu two years ago. I’ve been a Mixed Martial Arts fan since the days of Pride FC and Shoto and I’d studied martial arts on and off since I was 6. At 41 I wanted to get back into training again and prompted by repeated episodes of the Jocko Willink and Joe Rogan Podcasts I decided to give Jiu Jitsu a try. What I found was one of the hardest and most rewarding activities that I’ve ever undertaken. Jiu Jitsu’s benefits extend beyond the mats and it has become a template for personal improvement in all aspects of my life. Every Juijiteiro’s journey is different, but here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned.
It’s a great workout
There are a number of “nicknames” for Jiu Jitsu. “The art of folding clothes with people still in them” and “involuntary yoga” being two of my favorites. There are very few other activities that are as dynamic, both from a muscular and cardiovascular sense, as Jiu Jitsu. Warmups, movement drills, and technique will get you heart rate elevated and a good sweat going but rolling (the BJJ term for sparing) is where the real conditioning takes place. The average person burns ~4.78 Calories per hour per pound of body weight while rolling. Compare that to circuit training, which burns a mere 3.63 Calories per hour per pound of body weight. An average 175lb man can burn up to 750-1000 calories in 1.5 hours of class, assuming he’s exerting himself to his full extent.
In addition to the conditioning aspect of BJJ is the improvement in proprioception, which is the knowledge of where your body is in space. How many times do we see a guy walking down the sidewalk who seems to have no idea what his body is doing, where his limbs are, where he is in relation to his environment. Proprioception is critical in BJJ and its carryover to everyday life is immense. Good proprioception leads to better posture, confident movement, and that seen but often misunderstood difference between a man who exudes physical capability and a lumbering oaf.
It will teach you to defend yourself
This one seems pretty self-explanatory, but there’s some nuance. There are two main schools (generally) of Jiu Jitsu; Self Defense and Sport. Self Defense, or traditional Gracie Jiu Jitsu, was developed by Helio Gracie as a form of self-defense. Sport Jiu Jitsu builds on the base of traditional Gracie BJJ and is more specialized for a sport environment. This is a drastic oversimplification, but let’s run with it for this post. While there are arguments about if sport Jiu Jitsu is effective for self-defense, one thing that makes any type of BJJ good for self-defense purposes is the heavy application of live sparing or “Rolling”.
A coworker and friend of mine who was a US Marine had a favorite saying, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” I’ve heard a similar saying which goes “Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the face.” One major flaw with many martial arts systems is they do not allow sparing until the upper belt levels and even then, it is at a drastically reduced tempo. After a brief introduction to BJJ you will be allowed to roll. This exposure to a live, thinking opponent and the need to apply anything you learned at a realistic pace is the advantage of BJJ. It will teach your brain to operate at the speed of physical combat without causing long term damage to your brain or body.
You will find a tribe
Jiu Jitsu practitioners are an odd lot. At my academy we have, to name just a few, a programmer, an author, a former professional MMA fighter, an electrician, a CPS case worker, a lawyer, a firefighter, and a manager at an auto parts warehouse. We range in ages from late 20s to mid-40s. The one thing that draws us together is Jiu Jitsu. We struggle, with and against each other, for hours a week on the mats. This struggle breeds a deep kinship. My teammates are my best friends. They know me at a deeper level than any other group of friends or coworkers because of the struggle we endure together. We support each other, we help each other get better, and we break each other’s balls and keep each other humble.
Total Defense Martial Arts in Staunton, Virginia, offers classes for adults and children in Western-style boxing, Filipino Martial Arts, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). We are affiliated under black belt Dennis Hayes of HYBRID, in turn under Prof. Pedro Sauer of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Association. Total Defense Martial Arts head coach is Brian Rose, a purple belt under Dennis Hayes.