“Don’t make friends who are comfortable to be with. Make friends who will force you to lever yourself up.”
– Thomas J. Watson
There are so many great things that Jiu Jitsu adds to your life. It keeps you in great physical shape, provides self-defense tools, boosts your self-confidence, and stimulates you mentally. Perhaps the greatest benefits, however, are the friendships you will forge on the mat.
When you engage in an art such as Jiu Jitsu, you are doing something unusual in modern society. At its base, BJJ is an intimate struggle with another human for dominance. However, in doing this, over time you build a deep connection with them. It is truly like few other ways to bond with a person. The friendships are meaningful and long lasting; and often the teammates would not cross paths outside of the academy.
On the mat, it doesn’t matter where you come from, your occupation, or ethnicity. The mat is a great equalizer. CEOs roll with high school kids. Blue-collar and white-collar grapple together (and I am not just talking gi collars). This is the beauty of Jiu Jitsu. It brings together people from all walks of life and levels the playing field. Technique, strategy and physical skills reign supreme.
Practitioners also share the common understanding of the Jiu Jitsu journey. Everyone who trains in Jiu Jitsu has been smashed, defeated, and humbled by another at one point. Because of this, we know how to lift up our teammates when they are down. We have the personal experience to empathize with their situation and encourage them to keep practicing.
To help develop these special bonds, we must give back to our partners. This means working together to help teammates improve their technique. This is where Watson’s quote comes in – they will “force you to lever yourself up”. Each practitioner lends a hand for the others, lifting the entire team over time.
When a Jiu Jitsu partner is truly in need, the team all pitches in to help. Famously, Nate Diaz only stuck with BJJ at first because his training partners knew he was hungry and bought him a burrito after every class. But there are countless examples you will see every day on social media or reddit. Recently, we saw how teammates bought their partner a gi because his only gi was falling apart and they knew he couldn’t afford a new one. No big deal for our Jiu Jitsu family.
Sometimes, I like to think of Jiu Jitsu as a game (it has been called “human chess”, among other things). This is a game with somewhat extreme consequences if we do not tap. However, it is much more than just a game – or even an art. Jiu Jitsu is a vehicle for self-improvement. By improving others, we establish deep friendships and ultimately improve ourselves; working toward becoming the best person we can be.