People often think of martial arts, and especially Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, as a way to get in shape and learn self-defense .. but it is so much more.  While you will certainly get in the absolute best shape of your life and learn how to defend yourself with the most practical and effective system on the planet, you will find some other changes happen as well.  These changes extend far beyond the mats and impact every area of your life, and they will help you reach your potential.

Whether you read articles about it in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, or Inc., the general themes are pretty consistent – to reach your potential, you must:

  • be challenged and overcome those challenges to build confidence;
  • have a positive attitude with a growth mindset; and,  
  • be introspective – understand and own your own strengths and weaknesses.

This article describes 3 ways that Cardoso Jiu Jitsu will help you reach your potential.

#1 Boost in Confidence

Challenge yourself, change your life!  Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is hard. It’s one of the best things about it, and one of the best things for you. You will be pushed outside your comfort zone in virtually every single class.  Unlike traditional martial arts where you spend most of your time doing forms, breaking boards, or hitting pads, in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu you will be applying your technique at nearly 100% against opponents who will be doing the exact same thing to you.  At first, you will fail. You will learn a lesson that everyone deserves to know: winning a fight takes knowledge, skill, and much practice.

Jiu Jitsu is a humbling experience at first, but that makes the successes all the more rewarding.  As new people join the gym, you see your old self in their failures while you recognize the immense progress you have made.  You build confidence — lots and lots of confidence.  And if you can do this, you can do anything.  This has a profound effect, not only on your fitness goals but on your life goals.  At Cardoso Jiu Jitsu, we have all been there, and you have a room full of people to support you through it.

#2 Growth Mindset

Research from Stanford University psychologist, Dr. Carol Dweck (watch her Ted talk: The power of believing you can improve or read her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success) shows that success in any area of human endeavor (e.g., work, school, sports, art) is dramatically influenced by whether we have a fixed or growth mindset.  

People with a fixed mindset believe their qualities are fixed traits and not significantly changeable.  They tend to believe they are good or bad in math, language, or sport, for example. People with a growth mindset have an understanding that learning and intelligence grow with time, effort, and experience.  They believe that working hard can result in success in sports even if they weren’t a “natural.” Dr. Dweck’s research shows that people with a growth mindset flourish more than those with a fixed mindset.  Having a growth mindset is essential to reaching one’s potential.  Jiu jitsu nourishes a growth mindset – both practically and philosophically.

Practically, no one starts jiu jitsu and feels like they have any talent. Even experienced grapplers/wrestlers feel uncomfortable in certain jiu jitsu positions.  Ed Ruth, one of the best high school and collegiate wrestlers of the last decade (3-time NCAA champion) and undefeated MMA fighter who has been training jiu jitsu for several years was submitted in less than 50 seconds at a major jiu jitsu tournament this year.

Philosophically, the jiu jitsu culture embraces hard work over talent and learning over winning.  There is a famous and often repeated quote credited to one of the creators of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Carlos Gracie, Sr. — “There is no losing in jiu jitsu.  You either win or you learn.”  This has become as much a staple in our sport as anything Carlos Gracie, Sr. contributed — and that is saying a lot.  There are entire websites, apparel, artwork and more dedicated to this principle.  It’s also lived by some of the best athletes and instructors in the sport.  Rubens “Cobrinha” Maciel is one of the most decorated athletes in the history of the sport and is the only athlete ever to win the Super Slam, winning all 5 major tournaments in a single year.  One of his mottos is Focus on improving rather than proving”.  

At Cardoso Jiu Jitsu, you are surrounded by a culture and people who have a growth mindset.

#3 Better Self-Awareness

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is one of the only martial arts you can safely practice at full effort against resisting opponents.  The first benefit of that is we get a better awareness of the effectiveness (or not) of the techniques and how to apply them.  You can break 1,000 boards and beat up 100s of bags without having any awareness of whether or not those punches/kicks would work against someone intent on hurting you.  While this is an essential part of an effective martial art, the more important lesson is the personal self-awareness it brings.

Jiu Jitsu forces everyone to face reality every time they step on the mats, but in a good way.  We have a natural inclination to stretch the truth to ourselves to make ourselves more comfortable.  “Work is fine,” “My relationships are fine,” “I’m healthy,” etc. If we do that, we risk fooling ourselves into complacency.  But the first step to improvement is being honest about the present – and doing something about it. Joe Rogan, famous comedian, podcaster, UFC commentator, and jiu jitsu black belt, said, [salty language warning]  “When you do jiu jitsu, it’s impossible to be full of shit because reality comes at you in the purest form possible…. And that has made me understand myself: my weaknesses, my strengths, the shit I need to work on.  That is one of the most valuable tools I’ve ever had in my life.”