Why is BJJ so Addictive?
Meet Dino Chantziaras of Toronto, Ontario. In his late 30's, Dino has been training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for a few years, and is a blue belt at Toronto Top Team.
A father, husband and business owner.
And above all - a Jiu-jitsu fanatic.
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I am hopelessly addicted to jiujitsu. I don't even bother mentioning to my peers at the gym how addicted I am. They are as hopeless as me.
It be like two beat up old drunks sitting on a corner drinking fortified wine saying,
"I can't quit!"
"I know, I can't either!!!"
Some common signs of addiction:
- New rash guard and gi more often than required.
- Stayed up all night watching the 7 hour spider guard DVD set looking for the 'area 51' details.
- Buying athletic tape by the case.
- Lots of scars. Real alien abduction shit.
- Practicing baseball chokes on the steering wheel.
- Thinking of choking people brings you immense peace.
- You keep trying 'a move' on your spouse, who SWEARS she will tell your coach if you don't stop.
I joke to one guy who asks if I'm 'a little old' for 'wrestling' (definitely picture myself choking him). I tell him, "It's the new mid life crisis, forget the sports car and the WAY too young girlfriend. Just start grappling, it is way safer!"
And though I’ve got to say a lot of men AND women at my gym are over forty, it certainly would not begin to define the broad spectrum of people being attracted to the martial art. People I would not have imagined in my work, my church, my clients, their kids, are ALL getting elbows deep into it.
It is obvious now that the UFC's broad viewer base has 'normalized' the submissions portion of MMA. Eight year olds now watch SportsNet highlights and see a fight ending with a kimura. It is out of the shadows now and in our living rooms.
But why is everyone so addicted?
Definitely the sparring and especially the tapping.
We are learning the 'real deal'. I am sure there are a bunch of McDojo's out there serving up some BS techniques, but with a handful of notable exceptions, if there is a competent instructor with a transparent lineage, you are learning some straight up killing-machine stuff.
When my daughter who is five years old 'gets too far' into an arm bar or a choke, I HAVE to tap. That's it. Game over. Doesn't matter how good I think I am. My partners will set me straight.
An 'average' blue belt in our gym is ANYTHING but average compared to an average person walking the streets.
I'm paraphrasing a famous commentator and martial artist who said, "What is a tap? A tap means you're dead! Or I break your arm, then you are dead." Jiujitsu's sparring format of LIVE ‘kill or be killed’ is Darwinism at its best. A lot of sports are left up to the judges. A figure skater can leave it all on the ice and not win. But if I tap, the other guy or girl is conclusively the winner.
We need humbling to learn, and learning is addictive.
Like anyone in BJJ you are going to tap to an opponent. You learn quickly in action the following axiom: "Your opponent is your teacher, it is your EGO that is the enemy".
I wasn't always so 'ready' to be humbled, but now when I get beaten by a superior opponent I thank them, and not some 'stock' thank you. I am truly grateful for the interaction that will ultimately make me a better fighter.
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Being part of something 'bigger'.
The BJJ community is tight and revolves around passing down information and support. If you show up and train hard, be a good student and partner, you are in. That simple.
You were a nerd in school? No problem, you are in.
You are an ugly dude? You are in.
Just keep coming back and trying. Train hard, and be a good student and partner. Whether you are a white belt or a brown belt, you will have a peer group you train with and you will be tighter than white on rice. My training partners are VERY close to me because I am literally putting my life in their hands.
If Oliver gets me in a nasty choke and decides he is not going to respect my tap, I'm saying hi to Jesus up close.
If Kaeli decides to crank a heel hook on my ankle and tear it up like Palhares, I’m walking around like Tiny Tim.
But I am not afraid, because I TRULY and WHOLEHEARTEDLY trust my partners with my life.
Can you say that about your co-workers? Or the guy next to you on the treadmill at your 'exercise' gym? Or the guy working on your car engine?
When we SLAP and BUMP before we ROLL, it has been described as a contract. That we will consensually give each other appropriate resistance and not hurt one another in the hopes of making us the best that we can be. We give each other hell to make each other as strong as possible in our gym, side by side sisters and brothers in arms. So when we compete or if we need to fight in the street we can bring our best.
Totally committed to the moment.
Everyone is so distracted now. Facebook updates, work, calls…
In the gym, no phones, no screens. If I am in a two-hour session, I am forced into total immersion. If you are undisciplined, a couple of times getting choked will 'realign' your focus to make you present enough to survive.
It is a very spiritual experience, to the point that many people say to me they are 'going to church' and I know they mean going to the gym.
Human contact is addictive as is being physical with your own body.
It takes getting used to. The average North American person looks awkward giving their mom a hug. We are physically as close as possible when grappling and it feels good to be in control of your own body. I once described rolling as twenty two dates in 6 minutes.
Grabbing someone’s head with one hand and wrist with your other arm and dragging them to the ground just sounds savage, but when you do it or have it done to you it’s as though you are part of dance or a song, a 'harmony of technique'.
Our bodies can do amazing things, and gaining confidence in doing physical things just feels unworldly good. It can take decades to become a master grappler, and it truly is a journey. Many happiness studies have proven that it is experiences, not things, that make us happy, especially things that require commitment and focus.