The Philosophy of BJJ in 7 Visuals

By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here

There are endless BJJ (Brazilian jiu-jitsu) videos and tutorials of techniques, or pictures and articles of who the current top competitors are. But those things change, what are permanent are philosophies. So with this visual essay, I'd like to leave you with 7 permanent ideas that I got from BJJ that transformed my life.

1.) The Way

Higher belts say it all the time but it makes a lot more sense when you see it visually. Rather than focusing on where you want to end up, like winning, or the next belt up, focus on the process. Why? Because every other beginner is focusing on winning, that's why they're beginners. They'll bypass the "getting good" part. Focus on getting good, the rest will take care of itself. This actually is the Way and it's how you should approach every great undertaking. It will serve you well in all endeavors.

2.) The Small-Man's Philosophy

A giant person sits on your chest; you aren't going to shove him off. So what can you move? Oh yeah, yourself. Don't try to think like a powerlifter, think like the clever little person that you are. Control yourself. That's life, you can't control all circumstances, you can, however, control your actions and reactions.

Much like the Stoic philosophy, you can't control all events, but you can control your opinions about them. This is the efficient jiu-jitsu man. No wasted energy on things you cannot control, but only on those things you can.

3.) Flow Like Water

Think in terms of circumstances and what you should and shouldn't focus on, then master the grey area inbetween. Flow like water in all the tiny cracks to gain your advantages. This isn't just a BJJ philosophy, but rather, a philosophy you should pull from jiu-jitsu and carry with you into the rest of your life.

4.) Focus

To think of all there is to learn is overwhelming, but good news: you don't need to be good at all of it. The most useful and successful people in life find a few areas and excel at those few. World champions are elite at perhaps five things (that's not just for jiu-jitsu, this is true for nearly all sports). Hone your skills, master a few things, become a mental sniper.

5.) The Beginner's Mind

So much of how well you will do in life, let alone how well you will do in jiu-jitsu, will be determined by your ability to deal with failure. If you see it as a learning experience, we can trust that you will be alright. If you can't? Well, most people can't. It's why average is average and above average is so unique. The beginner's mind sees treasure where the average mind sees the "bogeyman."

6.) The Work

We call this the grind: the daily repetitiveness you have to push through to get anywhere. Mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell explained it best when he said:

A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men ... in whom every vital impulse slowly withers, as though they were cut flowers in a vase.

True mental toughness isn't overcoming fear, it's overcoming the grind.

7.) Purpose

Fun, love, and passion, are all unreliable. All of us who have trained for ten or more years knew people who loved it more and had more fun than us. Yet most of them have already quit. Why did we stick around? I said this during a promotion:

Someone told me I must really love it. Love isn’t the right word. I don’t do it because I love it, I do it because it’s meaningful. There’s a lot of things we love that we stop doing. We don’t stop doing meaningful things. It’s just a part of who we are.

In philosophy this is called telos; in BJJ, this is why we never quit.

The most important thing isn't how BJJ philosophy can help you in jiu-jitsu. For me, it's about how much of this can I carry with me off the mats.

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