“Nothing about Jiu Jitsu is easy. Is it really for everyone?”
by Tony Peranio WBBJJ.com
I often times hear the slogan, “Jiu Jitsu for everyone.” Every time I hear it I am reminded of the statement’s ambiguity. I love Jiu Jitsu and I wish that everyone practiced it. I also love the fervor of those who have coined the slogan!
However, is this slogan a case manifest? Personally, I can enumerate upon quite a few people that Jiu Jitsu is not for. Hopefully by the end of this article I will have you convinced that Jiu Jitsu is only for a select few.
Nothing about Jiu Jitsu is easy. Jiu Jitsu is a martial art that requires many of the most esteemed human qualities. The Jiu Jitsu practitioner needs heart, will, determination, drive, courage, intelligence, balance, integrity, stamina, endurance, calmness under pressure, motivation and lack of ego. You must also be willing to be sore all day, every day. If you practice regularly, you will never have a day, where nothing hurts. The characteristics that I have stated are certainly not present in everyone. Some people possess some of the characteristics, but few possess all. These qualities come natural to some, and can be taught to others, but it is a far stretch to say that everyone possesses them inherently. It is also a “shot in the dark” to assume that everyone simultaneously possesses them all.
To make matters worse, the qualities that I have mentioned only scratch the surface of what it takes to be successful in the art! The ones that I have mentioned are the ones that immediately come to mind. Penning the entire list would be exhausting for me to write, and for you to read. The bottom line of it all is, is that Jiu Jitsu is not easy.
From my travels I have noticed that there are a tremendous amount of people who do not want to challenge themselves. Those of us who practice Jiu Jitsu love to be challenged! Every moment of our martial art is a challenge. I imagine that if you are reading this you either, 1) feel the same way, or 2) you are trying to find out if Jiu Jitsu is for you. If after reading to this point you are beginning to feel that Jiu Jitsu is not for you, fear not. The characteristics that I mentioned to be successful in Jiu Jitsu are present in every single human being. People develop and grow when placed under the care of excellent teachers and instructors. Stamina and endurance can be increased with exercise. Courage and heart increase every time you roll. Calmness under pressure comes with experience. Motivation begins to happen when you realize how fun Jiu Jitsu is to learn. Your ego quickly shrinks when people half of your size, submit you, with their bare hands.
Jiu Jitsu is for everyone in the sense that it can benefit everyone. However I have never come across someone who says, “Wow this Jiu Jitsu stuff is easy!” That has certainly not happened. To the contrary, I have seen many people come and go, because of the difficulties of our “game”. Life changes, jobs, injuries, family, school and finances are just a few of the things that I have seen pull people away from Jiu Jitsu.
“I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.”
By another token, Jiu Jitsu makes you a lethal weapon. You are the carbine. You are the blade’s edge. It can be said that you are more lethal than both carbine and blade, because our Jiu Jitsu is always with us; it is us. Is power like this for everyone?? Guns are not for everyone. Knives are not for everyone. By the same token I do not believe that martial arts are for everyone. The slogan “Jiu Jitsu for everyone”, I believe, is being pragmatic in hopes for the future. Our combat sport is quickly growing in popularity. It is doubtful that this rate of growth will be slowed any time soon. I hear people talking about Jiu Jitsu in the strangest of places. I hear people talking about Jiu Jitsu in restaurants, family gatherings and many other unrelated social avenues. The quicker we can assist the growth of Jiu Jitsu, the quicker we can increase the most esteemed and noble qualities of mankind in others.
Jiu Jitsu is transformative, but it is not easy.
That is why I like it.
I hope you all enjoyed the read!
– Tony Peranio WBBJJ
The 2011 Pan Ams was my first big jiu jitsu tournament and it was one of the best days of my life. To make the experience more authentic my friends and I showed up to the event on Brazilian time, or late. Being a lightweight I was the first of our group to compete and when we got there the feather weights were already underway. The arena was filled with twelve rings of mats all filled with competitors. People shouting, celebrations, crying, the whole world of jiu jitsu was gathered at this spot today. As a blue belt, I had a division with over 120 competitors, meaning it was seven rounds to the finals. It was a huge challenge; this was the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Pan Am.
As soon I had hurriedly put on my gi the announcer was calling my bracket to the warm up area. Inside this fenced off pen gathered all of the guys in my division; mean mugging each other, aggressively doing burpies, and singing along to gangster rap as it blared from head phones. We were all here to send each other home but were first forced into a tiny area with almost no room to do our intended warm ups. After a rush of claustrophobia I sat on the floor, closed my eyes, and meditated on my affirmations. ‘Everyone else here thinks they’re the good guy, so I’ll be the bad guy. I’m like Darth Vader so I wear my black gi. I’m here to ruin someone’s day. I am the bad draw they didn’t want’. I waited so long I began considering that they must have forgotten to call me when I finally heard my name.
As I weighed in and got my gi checked, I realized that my opponent had a strange ID card from another country. He said a few words of his native tongue to his coach and I knew that ‘lispy, whinny Spanish’ meant I drew a Brazilian in the first round. He wouldn’t be here unless he was good. My heart started pumping. I was across the country in this huge tournament, I didn’t know where my friends were and my coach Comprido was away at the UFC in Las Vegas.
Standing there in the weight ins, I started to run through my mind all the excuses I could use after I lose this match, when in the corner of my eye I saw Andre Galvao, one of my biggest heroes. “Andre” I yelled, “I’m a big fan” he turned around, looked back at and grabbed me by the shoulder. “Yes” was all he said then walked away but it completely hit a reset button on my train of thought. I’m not here to lose this match, I’m here because I love jiu jitsu. They called us to the mat.
In every first match of every tournament I’ve ever done I get hit by what’s called the adrenaline dump. You lose sense of time, your IQ plummets, you have amnesia for much of the experience. All your training at the gym cannot prepare you for when your brain goes out the window and you rely on instinct. About half way through the match I got my bearings together and was no longer so vulnerable. ‘Slow down’ I told myself, ‘breathe, relax your grips’. Once I swept my opponent and got on top I felt him start to panic. This wasn’t supposed to happen to him, but then again he pulled the bad guy in the first round. I used a lot of energy holding him down as he kicked like a wild deer but I eventually passed his guard, winning the match on points. With the first one behind me I returned to the still crowded warm up area with a new comfort and focus. Now it was time to get in the zone.
Right away when the next match started I could feel my opponent nervously shaking. He probably got a buy and this was his first match of the day. As the bad guy, I had to use his jitters to my advantage. I kept my cool but pushed the paced on him, quickly sweeping to the top and passing straight in to an armbar, forcing him to tap.
During the third fight I lost points when I got swept and had to use my reserve flexibility to get out of more trouble. I realized that my opponent was one tough guy. While I hung in there, getting smashed on the bottom, I thought about how I tried hard and I won two fights. I could go home and Comprido wouldn’t be that disappointed, this being my first big tournament. Everyone would realize that guy was just better than me. I thought that till out of nowhere, I heard my friend Bruce from the stands ‘One minute left’. That made me move.
If only it had been two minutes I would have thought it was too long and quit, but I could push in this last minute and make something happen. The next time he tried to step around my legs, I followed him and rolled upside down. My legs landed right how they needed to be to step up triangle choke but it seemed like he didn’t realized or know the danger. I took a deep breath and unwound, cinching a deep triangle choke. Grabbing my ankle, I squeezed and got the submission from the trick move, narrowly avoiding defeat.
In the warm up pen my friends were waiting. They were all excited for how I was doing while I kept it inside. If I won one more match I would be farther in at a big tournament than any of the Americans on our team had gone. ‘One match at a time’ I told them, trying hard to stay cool. While I waited at the mat for my next fight, I saw my next opponent practice wrestling shots, so I started pretending to practice judo throws were he could see. As soon as the match started I showed my bluff and immediately pulled him into a deep half guard, a place a wrestler type like him would feel confused. After a sweep, I snuck to his back and cranked a bow and arrow choke. My friends cheered from their distant seats in the stands. I was now deep in the no-man’s land of the late tournament that was unknown to everyone I knew; that is everyone except for Comprido.
After about an hour break I fought this kid in the quarter finals that had a really similar game to mine. The entire match I felt like I had no control but it was still somehow close. I swept him, he swept me back, he nearly got a couple of submissions on me. My teammates were far from me in stands so there was no one to tell me the score but I knew time was running out. He rolled away as I went passed his guard but I jumped on his back right as the buzzer rang. As the ref lifted my hand I honestly had no idea what the score was. For the first time all day I was tired but there was no time for that as the semi final, and hence the meddling round, was next.
I focused on my affirmations. ‘You are meant to be here. You trained hard for this. You were already one of the best in the room before the day began. And you still are.’ I was already in third place no matter what, but no, I could do this.
The next guy came out strong, stacking me up on my head after I pulled guard. He had a scary look; a white dude with cornrows just seemed intimidating. He pushed me around on the mat for a bit as I scurried upside down in a ball looking for something with no success. As he tried to stack me up again I got the chance to grab his belt. Using my grip on his belt I closed a triangle around his neck without either of his own arms. He tried hard to posture up for a second but quickly tapped. Afterwards, my opponent asked me what that submission was and I told him I honestly did not know, I had never done it before. I had never done any of this before but I had faked my way this far. But I had to focus; I had a chance to take this whole thing. Luckily the submission was quick and I still had a lot of gas left.
In the other semi final that would decide my opponent, there was a Brazilian and a young American. After a little back and forth the American got a nasty armbar, the Brazilian flopped around but would not tap and his arm got bent back. I think I may have even yelled for him to tap before the ref stepped in and saved him from further damage. After the match the American’s coach cheered, it was none other the Saulo Ribiero, the former Michael Jordan of Jiu Jitsu. I had studied Saulo’s book on the plane out to California. So great, he has a hall of famer for a coach. But I knew I was always dangerous. Back to my affirmations before the finals ‘Everyone else here looks like a fool. They wear their gi like it’s a Halloween costume and pajamas. I was reborn on a beach in Brazil in this gi. My gi is still covered in blood, sweat, and amniotic fluid. I was born to wear this gi’. They called us to the mat.
It was one of the quicker fights of my career. Within ten seconds I was flipped in the air onto my back. Twenty seconds later he picked me up, rolled me, and jumped on my back. After staving off a lapel choke, mounted triangle, and an armbar for several breaths I had to tap to a combination of the above. The kid simply out classed me. If I would have faced him in the first round he would have beat me then too. When I realized he still had braces on his teeth, I asked him how old he was, 17. This was his day, and it turns out it was the first of many others for him. This second place was the best I ever got. I shook his hand and slunk off the mat.
I was sitting there on the ground in a daze when Saulo walked up to me. He told me that I fought well and that I had a lot of talent. He knew my name and gave me a lot of respect. He was so humble to even talk to me and I was honored to meet him.
Standing on the second step of the podium, one gets the distinct sense that you are almost literally a stepping stone to the champion. There were 120 people at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day there are 119 losers. They cannot all be stepping stones. They all needed to be here for the sake of the art. If no one but two people came to the World championship there would be a champion decided, but that would be a dull champion. We make sure that Jiu Jitsu stays sharp and that if anyone wants that title, I will make damn sure that they are sharper than me. I may not win every tournament I enter, I may never win a match again but I will keep going out there because I’m no stepping stone, I’m a whet stone.
– Jim Barrett
“HOW BRAZILIAN JIU JITSU IS SAVING MY LIFE” – By John George
(Training partner of Todd Shaffer, of WBBJJ.com)
There are two reasons why I have decided to make Jiu Jitsu a part of my life. The first reason came from a realization one night while at work. I am a police officer, and aside from myself, I have to keep co-workers and citizens safe. Not knowing how to defend yourself puts those aforementioned individuals at risk. I have been attacked on numerous occasions while on the job, and luckily I have not been injured as a result. This one night in particular, I was called to a residence to look for a wanted person. The homeowner let my partner and I into the residence, and we began to search for the wanted male. Our search took us to an upstairs bedroom and eventually to a closed closet door inside of the bedroom. I opened this closet door and there was the wanted male standing in the closet. I instructed the male to exit the closet and when he refused to do so, I extended my arm to grab him and to place him under arrest. It was at this time that the subject lunged toward me in an attempt to tackle me. The fight was on so to speak, and it ended with me on top and him under arrest.
Moments after the attack I began to relive it in my mind. I was continuously thinking about the event and wondering why it happened. Although I could not figure out why it happened, I understood something pretty clearly. I was out of shape, and I really don’t know how to “properly” protect myself from someone who knows how to fight. It was at that moment I told myself that I would take my friend up on his offer to come down to his Jiu Jitsu Academy. (The subject was considerably lighter than I was at the time and I couldn’t help but to ask myself, “What if this guy was as big as you are and knew how to fight?” and “What if this guy was as big as you are, high on PCP and knew how to fight?”)
That realization was the start of my Jiu Jitsu journey and that leads us to the second reason that I started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu; overall health. I needed to lose weight. I was nearing 280 pounds, and looked nothing like “Arnold”. I would tire easily and often, and my stomach started arching near my chest; not good. I ended up at Rozzi’s Self Defense Center (Ribeiro Jiu Jitsu) where I was met with open arms. Everyone there was accepting of the new student, and were also very helpful. I showed up for a good workout (and believe me that is what I got) but by the end of the night, I started to see the other reasons that make Jiu Jitsu sacred in my mind. I saw patience, I saw humility, and I saw perseverance. My first class had ended, and I knew that Jiu Jitsu and I were in for a long relationship. Two years later, I have lost 30 pounds and have managed to keep it off. The stress that is relieved after live sparring is unprecedented. I am stronger and more flexible than I was when I first started, and my mental health has improved as a result too. I started my journey with two set goals in mind; to be safer and to be healthier. Those goals are obtained, but not yet complete.
The more I walk this road that is Jiu Jitsu, the more other things start to become apparent. Jiu Jitsu never lies to you, and will remind you if you start to lose your humility! There are many things that I have gained from this art. Being a competitive person, I now have a sport that I can train for, and try to be successful in. In this regard I can also set my personal competition goals, the meeting of which, further fuels my desire to learn. I view landing submissions or having an advantageous position during sparring as a litmus test on how far I have traveled on this road; not as a gauge to determine how much better I am than my partner. My wanting to tell our school’s white belts, my mental and technical errors, is another fine point about this art. You want to make your new brothers and sisters more technical, and more understanding of our craft. You will also want to mentor new students by using Jiu Jitsu in life examples as well. The natural desire that comes with the learning of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, to eventually want to teach it to others, is certainly magnificent in its scope. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has granted me the opportunity to see myself, and others, grow. All of this adds to what makes BJJ, exciting and rewarding, every day of the year!
In life, you should want to display certain values. I am a father and a husband, and I want to serve both roles as virtuously as possible. Jiu Jitsu has taught me about attitude, dedication, respect, family, loyalty and honor. If those six words do not embody and validate everything that I have said within the body of this narrative, then I don’t know which words will. Those six words are the commandments that were bestowed upon me when I started to wave the Ribeiro flag. More importantly, those six words have helped me to be safer and healthier in my life. These stripes on my white belt tell me of where I have been, where I am at, and how much further I yet have to travel…
…and thus far, the journey has been glorious!
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