More Than Self-Defense, Jiu-Jitsu Highlights Personal Growth Opportunities

Have you been through times when some of your weaknesses were on public display?

When you, and everyone else present, got an eyeful of those personal deficiencies about which you're a little insecure?

That's pretty much how my second jiu-jitsu class looked.

Thankfully, my weaknesses were highlighted by jiu-jitsu in such a way that the challenge of strengthening those areas through jiu-jitsu excites me.

This gentle art, as I've read to named, is a compelling discipline for self-improvement.

It also shamelessly emphasizes two broad areas in my life that need attention.

  1. I’m freaking out of shape, man.
  2. I need to get back to basics (in everything).

Physical Culture

It’s no mystery that after many years of doing little exercise, other than walking with my partner, I’m in poor shape.

Really poor shape.

Standing 6’ 2”-ish and weighing around 175lb, I have no major injuries to report, but also have little cardio conditioning and certainly no muscle to speak of.

And at 44 years of age, I move pretty slow and my joints are a little stiff.

Such is life, I guess.

But life doesn’t have to be that way, does it?

We don't have to resign ourselves to increasingly sedentary lives the more times around the sun we go, do we?

Of course not.

But this fact still remains – after my first two jiu-jitsu classes I've got some seriously sore body parts including my...

  • butt
  • lower back
  • hamstrings
  • and abdomen

I feel like a tall, skinny, stiff, old Gumby.

The soreness isn’t like that felt the day after lifting heavy weights.

Instead, using my body to secure my opponent, or encourage them to move in a particular direction, calls upon strength I don’t currently have, making my Gumby limbs just a wee bit sore.

And surprisingly, this new, physically demanding way of using my body in jiu-jitsu thrills me.

Back to basics

Adding to that excitement is another highlighted shortcoming I’m happy to work on: I've got to get back to basics.

As it seems with most things in life, learning and lifelong exercise of any skill set starts with basic building blocks.

Just as learning how to properly fret one note at time on a guitar can lead to shredding like Dragonforce guitarist Herman Li, solid fundamentals are the foundation of an exceptional artist, martial or otherwise.

Moreover, the back-to-basics mindset applies to even the simplest of things.

Just as Jordan Peterson speaks about cleaning your room, or Alcoholics Anonymous espouses “keep it simple”, jiu-jitsu promises to help me strengthen those areas that could be the foundation for great personal growth.

One such area – no joke – is personal hygiene.

Now, don’t go thinking I’m some sort of gnarly, messy, neck-beard (although I do, at the time of this writing, proudly sport a bushy beard).

But things like cleanliness are critical in spending an hour on a mat, rolling with another dude who is also sweating from the exertion.

So being mindful to wash before and after a class is important.

Taking it a step further, maintaining clean and short finger and toe nails is a must.

For the first time in my life, I’m consistently using fingernail clippers, as opposed to biting, peeling, or using a pocket knife to trim my finger them.

More surprising is I'm staying on top of my toe nails.

To be honest, attention to my toe nails has traditionally been short and sparse, breaking out the clippers only when I couldn’t stand the sight of them.

And that took a while.

Now, the get back-to-basics mindset (and care and respect for the guys I’m rolling with) forces me to clip and clean those nasty buggers.

This way I’m not contributing that brand of grossness to the gym mats, or just generally looking like a freaking monster.

It’s all those simple things that add up to something much greater.

Over time, maintaining order and wellness in the simplest areas of life, I’m certain I'll grow better physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Get-back-to-basics doesn’t apply only to jiu-jitsu; it’s a mantra for life.


So I guess that’s it for now. Jiu-jitsu is revealing itself to be a terrific teaching tool; one that resonates deeply with me.

That it highlights some of my shortcomings – with more on the way, I’m sure – also rings true.

It’s time to get back to basics, and get my body, mind, and spirit into good shape.