About the author: Sam Joseph is a 2nd degree black belt, head instructor and owner of Buckhead Jiu Jitsu in Atalanta.
We all had different reasons for starting Brazilian jiu jitsu. Self-defense training, exercise, curiosity inspired by the UFC – there are any number of things that inspired us to step on the BJJ mat the first time.
What we all have in common is that if we plan to make BJJ a permanent part of our lives, we must have fun. BJJ is too hard and takes too much work to continue to pursue as a hobby if we are not having a measure of fun. To that end, here are some tips to try that will help us FIND THE FUN on the mat and in the BJJ lifestyle!
Take a BJJ road trip
One of the most fun things you can do in BJJ is take a road trip. The destination can be as near as a couple of hours drive, or far enough to jump on a plane, but BJJ road trips are a blast. Whether we are going to a tournament, a seminar or just visiting an academy, getting some training partners together and hitting the road for a day, weekend or longer will end up yielding lots of fun and paving the way for deeper relationships with teammates.
Many of my fondest BJJ memories are tied to road trips. When at the Yamasaki Academy, there were many full-day trips to compete in East Coast tournaments and those days were always fun. We pumped each other up on the drive to the tournaments, supported each other during the tournaments and either celebrated or consoled each other on the way back. Often the highlights of the trips were the “post-tournament meals”, where we celebrated the wins and found ways to laugh at the losses in a way that allowed us to learn from them. Win or lose, we had FUN and it brought us closer and energized us in a way that excited us to get back to the academy mat! We had such a good time that people who did not even want to compete started to come as well. Their presence had the dual benefit of providing additional support for the competitors and also often inspiring them to train harder – whether they ever planned on competing in the future or not. In the end, EVERYONE got closer and had FUN.
Seminars or academy visits can have the same effect, but without the tournament anxiety. Whether an admired competitor or instructor is giving a seminar within a day’s drive or you jump on a plane for a long weekend of training, all the BJJ road trip benefits are there to be had.
Make a few friends on other teams
The BJJ world we live in now is both LARGE and SMALL. It is huge because there are so many teams, great instructors, world-class athletes and fantastic ideas. NOBODY has ALL the answers, nor has the market cornered on all that is great about BJJ. The same BJJ world is also small, as we have access to all of these things via social media, meeting them on road-trips, etc.
For example, I received my black belt from the Yamasaki Academy, but I have some very close friends on Team Renzo Gracie. Renzo Gracie black belts Joe D’Arce and Matt Serra are people I count as friends. Both were introduced to me by two of my very best friends in BJJ: Paul Creighton (Renzo black belt) and Chad Lebrun (Leo Dalla black belt). Paul, Chad and I met while training together in Atlanta before they moved to train at Renzo’s famous New York City academy. When Paul and Chad moved, I missed them dearly and full expected we would keep in touch over the years (and we have). What I did not expect was that their move would open the door for me to meet other quality people in BJJ.
Some of the best memories I have of competing at the Pan American BJJ championships in the early 2000s revolve around hanging out with Joe D’Arce in the stands and laughing for hours before we competed. And Matt Serra, who enjoyed legendary status in the grappling community even then, always made time to exchange “short jokes” with me between matches at the Grappler’s Quest tournaments. Over the years, my friendships with these guys continued to help make BJJ fun for me and I was always impressed with the kindness they showed me even though we were not ever “teammates”.
I am a “team” guy and always have been. I believe that good teams offer structure and a platform that can springboard our BJJ experience. What experience has taught me is that the team concept should not prevent real relationships from blossoming across academy lines. In fact, a strong team should empower individuals to be confident enough to develop authentic and healthy relationships that enrich our BJJ journeys.
Invite a friend to try BJJ
There are many reasons why inviting someone who is already a friend to try BJJ is fun. The social aspect is already covered with this person, as he/she is walking in as a friend. Sharing BJJ with a friend adds depth to our BJJ experience. Laughing and smiling on the mat comes a little easier when we have an established relationship and that impacts the whole atmosphere.
When a friend starts, we also are invested in helping them acclimate to BJJ. Starting BJJ can be tough for people and having someone there helping along the way, mentoring in a way, can accelerate the process of getting fully comfortable in the BJJ world. Our enthusiasm and sincere desire to see them do well often gives them a little extra push that can make the difference between quitting and staying the course. They end up benefitting as they start to truly see and enjoy the sport/culture we have grown to love and our enjoyment is now multiplied by the fact that we have another friend on the mat. Inviting a friend to try BJJ is a sure-fire way to make it even more rewarding and fun!
There are so many benefits to training BJJ and adopting the BJJ lifestyle. We sharpen our minds and harden our bodies while we build character by doing the kind of hard work it takes to improve our skills. That said, to enjoy these benefits we need to stay the course and a GREAT way to make sure we do is to find ways to make it FUN. Implement these tips and reap the rewards. See you on the mat!
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