The Blog About Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
First and foremost, I want to say thank you to everyone who subscribes to this email list. This includes my dad, many clients and friends, at least one cousin, and I think someone from Alaska. You’re all amazing. Love you all.
Also, just going to give a heartfelt shout out to my buddy Dean Guedo. There’s a 20% chance you’ll read this article one day, and if you do, I just want to say I really appreciate your friendship over the last several years (basically since 2017 or so) and your encouragement of me to try out this sport during a time when I truly needed it.
A few days ago in my IG stories I shared that I was going to talk about my experiences with BJJ so far. Ironically if you listened to my last podcast with Jay Weedall, I talked about how many of my friends do BJJ and I just cheer them on.
Well long story short, a few days after I recorded that episode, I went to my very first class.
I’ve realized a need to make this post more organized and structured so I’ve broken it down to 5 main pillars.
I am not who they say I am (confidence)
Work ethic - before to now
How BJJ makes me a better human - body and mind.
By creating this structure it allows me to story-tell a bit more concisely and give you a fuller picture without getting off track.
Here we go.
I actually didn’t go into fitness initially planning to be a personal trainer. Didn’t have intentions to host a podcast. I actually got dumped while working outside of the fitness industry and started going to spin classes from the day after I got dumped onward, everyday for about 100 days in a row.
I’ve done a few hundred classes at 3 different spin studios in Edmonton. Instructed at one of them for about a year.
But the thing is, it wasn’t what I was meant to do in this space. My career was an evolution that brought me to today. That evolution was mostly paved with rejection from different gyms and roles, unanswered emails and more.
There was a point where I would have been willing to quit a $60 000 salary job with benefits to work front desk at a spin studio and drive Uber on the side to make it work. I thought that was the show; I thought that was my dream. I wanted to inspire people and I felt like that was the only way as I was hustling to get auditions to instruct. In the end, I couldn’t get hired even to fold towels. Seriously, I got turned away when I applied for the Karma position where you fold towels in exchange for classes. Humbling, but it helped me learn about myself.
So I pivoted and pursued personal training certifications.
Eventually after completing one of my certifications, I made a commitment to myself that before I turned 26, I was going to be in the fitness industry. No matter what.
I knew I wasn’t necessarily going to have a job waiting for me, and I knew it might be the scariest thing I ever did in my life.
So a few weeks before my birthday I gave my 2 weeks. Got let go a week early, and on my way home with a car full of my stuff, I got a call from the gym I thought would hire me that I wasn’t experienced enough.
So in the weeks that followed I did gig work and side jobs and got a job as a porter at a bar while I did a paid internship at a private gym which later turned into a trainer role.
Over time, my personal passion for pursuing spin, and pursuing instructing at other studios totally fizzled.
In the meantime, I focussed on personal training, and my podcast.
The private gym closed 8 months after hiring me and I became a self employed contractor in the fitness industry while also working at the bar and in various other capacities as a contractor.
This was back in 2018 and have been contracting in various ways in the fitness industry as well as in the social media industry ever since. If you want to really dive into this part of my life, start my podcast from episode 1.
I am not who they say I am (confidence)
So this next piece, I’m going to reference a huge moment of reflection for me.
I asked a question in my Instagram stories a few weeks ago. It was set up so that people who gave advice or feedback would be able to respond anonymously.
As a guy in my 30’s looking around my circle of friends, many of the people I talk to are married or have a partner at this point in their life. It’s not easy to not have any idea why life deals you the cards it does sometimes. I’ve honestly been struggling trying to meet a girl over the last several years. So I put myself out there, let people know that I was having a hard time meeting someone compatible and asked for advice.
For the first few responses, it was super kind and thoughtful feedback. Then it got super intense and critical.
Here’s the piece that inspired this next section.
In response to asking for advice or feedback, I got
“truthfully this reeks of being needy and desperate two things women never want”
I’ll say first and foremost that feedback was valuable because it helped me to realize that sometimes my intentions of being kind to avoid hurting people’s feelings is also sabotaging the impression I leave with people. Also, the form was totally anonymous so it could have even been someone reading this article today that submitted it. You inspired me - thank you.
There are people who don’t see me as a force in life because I am so careful to not hurt their feelings by telling them just how capable I am. I walk on egg shells trying to be nice and gentle and sometimes that’s not the most effective way to set a strong impression.
This moment has also helped me realize I needed to make drastic changes to my life NOW to prove with daily actions that I am exactly who I say I am.
Work Ethic - Before to Now
The reason I include this category is that it will help paint a picture of why I foresee such huge potential for BJJ in my life.
The theme of my life is that when I set my mind to something I will do whatever it takes to see it through - even through failure.
An early example goes back to high school I was dating a girl who lived about an hour away. I wasn’t driving yet so we relied on our parents to commute for us to go on dates.
I really liked this girl and I realized she competed in Cross Country. That meant that she competed at meets that I could compete at (if I got good enough).
So solely for the reason that I wanted to get more time with this girlfriend of mine, I signed up to compete in cross country running.
It worked, I qualified for a regional meet where her city school’s team and my small rural school’s team were both competing and I got to see her.
This led to 2 school awards for most valuable male athlete in the cross country program. One of the years I was a DNF on my final race of the season. I got presented the award because I didn’t quit, my body did. I woke up in an emergency room in that instance.
That is one of my most fundamental examples of my work ethic - and then when I reflect on how I applied myself to spin classes, I can see how it’s a common thread in my life, and it excites me to think what I could do if I kept going to BJJ.
You’ve maybe noticed by now that I tend to embrace a growth mindset. I don’t believe that anyone else’s success can get in the way of mine. I think that even if I help my colleagues, I will still get to where I want to go in life - probably faster than others, and will be surrounded by good company.
This attitude has also been incredibly beneficial to my career - and is the reason I work within multiple other businesses in positions that require high levels of trust in me.
So let me tell you this. BJJ - or my experience of it so far, is incredibly aligned with that.
You can walk in there lost, not a clue what to do, and almost any member in the building will be willing to help you progress. The thing that I believe differentiates you in that room is your attitude that you can always improve.
I love it.
I love the idea that I don’t have to fit into someone’s box, or impress someone, or be the centre of attention like an ideal spin instructor would have to be.
I love that showing up sets you apart because you’re one step closer to being better than you used to be.
Showing up sets you apart.
If there’s anything about my past experiences that instilled in me that I was going to get a lot out of BJJ, it was that I KNOW from personal experience, that no matter what obstacles get in my way, I will show up to the challenge. It might not always be perfect or graceful but I will take feedback and I will learn from it.
That brings us back to that piece of feedback I got about being desperate and needy.
See, the reason I started doing BJJ wasn’t simply because I thought up the idea on my own. I’ve actually got a handful of really solid friends who also enjoy BJJ who’ve encouraged me to go for at least a year.
That feedback, as well as a few other submissions I received, made me realize that I need my external resilience to match my internal resilience.
Like I need to be honest to goodness, nearly impossible to kill or take out. I need to be serious force. I need to find MORE ways to be better, stronger and faster. If I want people to not talk shit about my confidence, I truly need to display that I know that they can’t stop me anymore. Even if it takes years of practice and dedication.
So what better way than to join BJJ.
How BJJ makes me a better human - body and mind
We now get into the meat and potatoes of the article. How BJJ makes me a better human.
I’ll start off by sharing what I thought was going to happen if I ever tried BJJ.
I thought I’d have a dude’s face up in my face and I thought they’d get their sweat all over me. I thought it would be too close for comfort, and I thought it would smell disgusting. I thought my ears would get all beat up and swollen. I also thought someone was going to just beat the shit out of me as soon as I hit the mat.
I was wrong about all of those things. As far as sweat, I’ve basically been sweating on the whole damn place. It’s more of me on other people than it is of other people on me.
My second class at the gym, I bought a Gi for $200 or so and signed up to a yearly commitment to their unlimited monthly membership. Hopefully that tells you something about the first impression. Place smells like wonderfully scented laundry.
See, I learned from my dedication to spin classes that it wasn’t a question as to whether I was dedicated enough to keep showing up and improving. I had already proven to myself, I could do just about anything for a year without stopping.
At this point, it was a question as to whether this modality was going to get me to where I wanted to be in life. Now that I’m getting older, I care about the outcome more. I want to be working towards something that progresses me as a human.
Let me tell you what clicked for me with BJJ.
My first class, I was reasonably tired, everything was new, but no matter who I was partnered with, and what their personality was, they were willing to teach me. That meant the world.
That’s not something that you will find in all modalities of fitness - and that’s not a dig at anyone’s studios or business. I am just saying that BJJ and a good community within a gym is special and if anything, underrated. To be able to learn from all kinds of people is pretty powerful.
Everyone grows together.
I had crazy nervousness leading up to my next class, but I knew if I put some skin in the game it would help with the nerves because then it would be about getting the most out of my investment.
So I asked to pay for a membership as soon as I got there, got the Gi, the shirt, etc.
Good to go, locked in, now we mean business. A lot of places will let you try for free to make sure you like it. This one definitely does. I didn’t need that anymore, I knew I wanted to keep going.
Second class, totally humbled me. I tapped early often because I was so tired I didn’t feel like I would have been able to do anything if I got trapped anyways. Last dude I sparred with was a white belt too and was bewildered - likely because it was the easiest spar he’d ever had.
It was this level of exhaustion I was experiencing that made me realize I needed to be on my A Game with my sleep and nutrition. I haven’t felt an external pull in a long time like I did then.
Last time I cared THAT much about my performance was when I was scrambling to try and become an instructor at a popular studio I was riding at in 2019.
That ship sailed, they gave me the wrong size shoes for about a month and a half after I cancelled my membership and then the pandemic loomed in months later. During the pandemic, my in person clientele shrunk dramatically, and the motivation really wasn’t as strong as it once was. I actually had to scramble quite a bit, sent out a lot of job applications and did a lot of soul searching and even therapy just to make it through the pandemic. So you can understand where I may have lost some of the skip in my step.
But seeing the guy’s face, and feeling as tired as I did, I knew I needed to start controlling the variables in my life that were impacting that outcome.
I wanted to be better and stronger for next time.
So I actually started going to bed earlier that week, and instead of ordering out, I cooked all my meals at home, or picked up frozen meals and protein supplements that aligned with my goals.
Another aspect that really helped me was I was facing a lot of stress during that week; and I could show up to the BJJ gym and just shut the outside world off, learn skills, be around people, and work my damn ass off, and leave feeling better than when I showed up.
When I get home from a class, I now have a ritual where I quickly put all my stuff in the washer and then once it’s finished, I hang it up neatly on a dedicated BJJ hanging station in my hall so that the Gi doesn’t get worn out or damaged in the dryer. When it dries, I fold it all up and pack it neatly in a duffel for the next class so I’m ready to go.
I haven’t cared that much about something in a long time. It feels good.
When I feel stressed, I have like 15 opportunities to go somewhere that smells good, where nobody cares who you are or how tired you are, they’re just going to work with you to get better until the timer stops.
And if you stop before the timer does, nobody is going to feel sorry for you.
If you show up consistently, you slowly become a monster.
It’s on you to get better.
The way it should be.
And that’s what I love about BJJ.
Thanks for reading :)
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