In 2007, I was introduced to the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). That introduction was humbling, to say the least, but my journey with BJJ has continued to teach me about life, business, and leadership over the last 15 years.
In the summer of 2007, I was driving to the Loveland Gold’s Gym for an afternoon workout. As I drove to the gym, I passed a local mixed martial arts and jiu jitsu gym. I had made this drive hundreds of times, but on this day, I decided I would stop by after my workout to see what this gym was all about. I had no intention or interest in trying a BJJ class, nor did I know much about BJJ when I stepped in the doors; I just happened to arrive 10 minutes before one of their BJJ classes was about to begin.
As I walked through the doors, I was greeted by a young man named Noah. I told him I was interested in training, and he replied by telling me to jump on the mats and try a jiu jitsu class. A little background, I was 27 at the time, filled with ego and attitude, and 200 plus pounds of muscle. As I stepped onto the mats, Noah directed me to go and partner up with a young kid who looked to be half my age and was most certainly half my size. Noah told me to go easy on him and gave me a firm pat on the back.
Without much direction or instruction, this young kid told me we would begin the class by lightly grappling. He told me that the goal is for one of us to take the other person to the ground, control them, and get them to submit by tapping out (this is where you tap your hand a couple of times on your opponent’s body, signaling that you are calling it quits). He reminded me multiple times that if any time during our match I wanted to quit, I just had to tap out.
Sounded easy enough. As I looked at this young kid, I figured it would be easy to manhandle him and put him to the ground and accomplish my goal of submitting him. He and I slapped hands, bumped knuckles and I immediately attacked him. I drove forward and grabbed him with all my force and strength. As I did so, he fell to his back and elevated my body into the air, making me go upside down then land on my back. He was now mounted on top of me, and I had no idea how this happened. All I knew is I had to escape. I began to flail and flop my body around trying to escape. I then pushed him off me in a bench press like motion. He grabbed my arm, spun around the side of me, landed on his back and arm locked me. As he continued to put pressure on my arm, I was forced to tap out, submit, and say “uncle”.
Eyes wide and mouth open, I was in shock. How did this happen? My shock turned to frustration and aggression as we slapped hands and bumped knuckles again. This time, I attacked him with more speed, force, and strength. I ended up on my back again with him on top of me. I continued to try and shake him off me and this time I turned to my stomach. As I did so, he wrapped his skinny little arms around my neck and choked me. As my world began to close in, I was forced to tap out again.
This experience was one of the most humbling ones of my life. Believe it or not, I fell in love with BJJ that day, and continued coming back to train. I have spent the last 15 years training, and the last 10 teaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to adults and children. Over my years of training, I have competed in many tournaments, and even have had to use jiu jitsu off the mats a couple of times to defend myself and my family. In 2019, my longtime friend and training partner, Troy Pettyjohn, and I founded NOCO Jiu Jitsu.
Jiu jitsu has taught me many lessons about life, business, and leadership, and I would love to share some with you in this blog.
But Before we get into the lessons, here is a quick introduction/recap as to what jiu jitsu is. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a martial art where a practitioner uses timing, technique, and leverage to outmaneuver their opponent. A practitioner’s goal is to get their opponent to the ground, control them, take away their ability to move and escape, and ultimately make them give up (tap out) from a joint lock or a choke. An opponent not tapping out would render them unconscious or with broken bones. The idea of using timing, technique and leverage allows a much smaller and weaker trained opponent to ultimately control and submit a larger and stronger opponent. For any of you that watch mixed martial arts and UFC, BJJ is what happens between opponents when the fight goes to the ground. Think of it as a human chess match where your goal is to check mate your opponent.
Here are some of the lessons I have learned over my years of training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:
I hope this blog inspired and encouraged you to continue your business and leadership journey. Please know I am cheering you on all the way!
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