I recently had the honour of being awarded my black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) by 8th degree coral belt, Master Joe Moreira and my coach, 2nd degree black belt James Woodfield-Jones from Sustainable Jiu Jitsu. So why would someone roll around on the ground with sweaty men and women to do BJJ and how do we make the journey to black belt?
Why Train BJJ?
The most obvious reason to do BJJ is to be able to protect yourself should a physical confrontation arise. BJJ has proven to be one of the most effective martial arts by fighters around the world. This makes sense if you work in security or law enforcement, but how about for the rest of us? Even if we don’t work in these fields, many of us like to know we have the confidence to look after ourselves and our family should the need arise. It’s that confidence and our sense of awareness that will help us diffuse potentially dangerous situations before they arise, without the need for force or violence.
Other reasons that people do BJJ is that it is an amazing workout for the whole body and they get an opportunity to make friendships and be part of a community of genuine people that want to get the most out of life.
Beyond the self-protection, fitness and friendships, BJJ is a great vehicle for self-mastery. At our core, we all have a deep inner need to expand and grow. If we don’t actively search out for challenges in life that we enjoy and make us grow, we will find that life throws challenges at us that we are forced to overcome and that are not so enjoyable. So by facing adversity and challenges on the mat in a controlled environment, we are able to take our learnings into life and we notice that every day challenges become easier to deal with.
I remember my early years in BJJ when a big guy would position himself on top of me and hold me down. I found it hard to breath and I would start to panic and move erratically with force but with little technique or intelligence. Over the years I managed to tame my emotions, quieten my mind and connect with the intelligence in my body, so that I could take action and escape from difficult positions instead of automatically reacting from my past conditioning. In some cases it’s a matter of just sitting tight and surviving. As we practise BJJ we grow mentally, emotionally and physically and that allows us to connect with who we really are and it allows us to connect with the intelligence in our body and consciously act in life, instead of automatically reacting. This is self-mastery.
Journey to Black Belt
When I first started BJJ over ten years ago, I had a lot of anxiety and I didn’t believe in myself. My instructor James however believed in me and over the years I managed to transform my inner world. When this happened it was as if my game magically transformed. If we want to perform at a high level in BJJ or in life, we have to put some focus on the inner world of our mental and emotional aspects of ourselves. More physical training will only get us so far.
Many of us are very busy, caught up in the dramas of our outer world, however the reality of the situation is that our inner world creates our outer world. Or put another way, whatever we put out in life, we get back. Unless we turn our attention inwards, and come to grips with our beliefs, thoughts and emotions, we will continue repeating our cycles and keep sustaining the stress and anxiety.
BJJ gives us a way of facing our beliefs, thoughts and emotions in a controlled way. You could say it triggers them so we gradually face them in a controlled way. It’s best to gradually increase the energy when rolling, unlike in some martial arts schools where beginners are given a baptism of fire at full power, ending up in a potentially dangerous situation leading to injuries and fear of getting back on the mat.
So how do we quieten and focus our mind? The answer is mindfulness. Mindfulness allows us to stay present without getting caught up in thinking about the past or the future. By being fully present, this leads to performance. Mindfulness allows us to change the relationship with ourselves and with our universe by developing attributes such as non-judging, acceptance, patience, curiosity, trust and kindness towards ourselves and others. Over time we become conscious of what was previously subconscious and this allows us to transform.
We practice mindfulness with activities like meditation and yoga and this allows us to achieve it when we are rolling or when we are in everyday life. Personally I start my day with 30 to 60 minutes of meditation then I normally do around 30 minutes of stretching, postural yoga, breathwork and strengthening exercises such push-ups and handstands.
As we turn within with mindfulness, we gradually learn to tame our emotions and quieten our thoughts by just observing them objectively, without getting caught up with them, without trying to push them away and without allowing them to overwhelm us. If we listen to the thoughts and voices in our head and think they are true, this will cause us stress, procrastination, anxiety and low self-worth. If we feel a lot of persistent emotional pain in everyday life, it is simply telling us that we may need to make some changes in our life, especially in the way we are perceiving things.
When we practice BJJ, it’s about feeling more and thinking less. We simply feel the sensations of our breath and body without getting caught up in them. If we listen to our body by feeling what it is trying to tell us, we connect with a source of intelligence far greater that our conscious thoughts. As we are rolling in BJJ, we keep our connection with our body and allow our body to do what it needs to do, without limiting ourselves with our busy mind. Over the years James has often reminded me to slow down while practicing BJJ. Now I realise this allows me to connect better with the intelligence in my body and allows me to act in accordance with the principals taught by Master Joe, instead of using lots of strength and being overwhelmed by my opponent’s strength.
This all takes practice and time on the mats. It’s about giving our training partners the right energy and allowing ourselves to get into difficult positions. If we need to tap, we don’t allow our ego to get in the way, we just tap which lets our partner know that they can now let go of the submission or choke. Next time you’re on the mats try slowing things down and rolling more mindfully. You may just be amazed at what you find. I would be interested to know your experience of this or if you have any questions.
If you’re interested in developing your mindfulness ability, I will be running mindfulness meditation classes from the Perth Hills Mindfulness Space in Darlington, on Tuesdays from 10 am to 11:15 am and Wednesdays from 6:00 pm to 7:15 pm. These classes start from the 9th of October 2018. Check www.PerthHillsMindfulnessSpace.com.au for details. If you would like to try guided mindfulness meditation from home, just send me an email at PerthHillsMindfulnessSpace@gmail.com and I will happily forward you a guided meditation free of charge. I wish you well on your journey.
Author: GABRIEL PERGAMALIS
About Gabriel Pergamalis
Gabriel Pergamalis is a Clinical Hypnotherapist and Self-Mastery Coach at the Perth Hills Mindfulness Space. He is passionate about helping people empower themselves to quieten their mind, tame their emotions and transform their limiting beliefs. He understands how the mind works, especially the influence of the subconscious mind. He is constantly upgrading his level of training to bring his clients the most simple, yet effective techniques to develop mindfulness, connect with their true self and overcome conditioning of the subconscious mind.
For more information on Gabriel’s “Know Thyself Program” visit the SELF MASTERY COACHING PAGE.
You can download Chapter 1 of the program for free including a 30 minute guided mindfulness meditation by Gabriel.