I’ve been so focused on writing solely about travel and women that I completely neglected to talk about something that has been part of my life for a long time now, longer than this blog, and almost as long as I’ve been traveling—something that I duly credit with making me who I am today: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ).
In 2007, I joined an academy in Mountain View, California. Two years later, in December of 2009, I was rewarded with my first promotion, a blue belt from a renowned BJJ legend — Ricardo de la Riva, while living and training in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
After seven years, here’s why I’m still training and not planning to stop anytime soon:
1) It’s a vigorous physical workout
There are many different types of workouts that a man can do. There’s the typical gym workout where you do exercises with free weights or machines. There are also various sports like running or swimming. And then there’s BJJ. BJJ is different because it’s an all-around body workout.
Warmups usually begin with a brutal regiment that rivals anything you might do as a separate exercise. After the warm out, we usually do heavy drills. Then, it’s free sparring, where after a couple of rounds you’re so tired that you can’t even move an inch.
I don’t do much exercise apart from my BJJ training. It seems to be enough because I’m excellent shape.
2) It’s a martial art
To quote Tyler Durden from fight club: “How much do you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?” While I’m not advocating going out and fighting random people on the street, I feel that, as men, we, should from time to time fight other men in a controlled environment.
Not only is BJJ a physical activity, but it’s a non-impact martial art. Unlike kickboxing, there are no punches or kicks in BJJ; one uses locks and chokes to subdue the opponent. This makes it very sneaky and lethal. It also makes it safer because you’re not risking being knocked out on every training.
Fighting another opponent gives great mental and physical boost. So much though, that after a hard session I have this omnipotent confidence that I feel I can go into any bar and take any girl home.
3) Learn self-defense
One of the hallmarks of a real man is that he must be capable of defending himself and his family.
Personally, I train BJJ specifically for the sport aspect. I don’t care much about competing professionally, so the actual fighting aspect of it isn’t really important.
But I do know that I definitely have an advantage in a fight, especially if it goes to the ground (which must fights do). Thankfully, I haven’t had an opportunity to utilize it in real life. And I sincerely hope it stays that way.
4) It develops your mind as much as your body
BJJ has been called by many professionals as a physical chess match. Every move has a counter move. Every counter move has a counter counter move. In the beginning you’re simply learning to correctly execute each move, but as you advance into higher levels, you’re not only executing the current move but you already planning two or even three moves ahead. So, if your opponent makes a move, you already have a counter move that you can trap the opponent. For a guy who loves mental stimulation, that’s actually one of my favorite aspects of BJJ.
That’s why I’ve always lost the motivation to continue other physical activities such as lifting weights or running, but BJJ’s mental stimulation always keeps me coming back to the mat. When I think I know all the variations of a specific move, I always learn something new and improve my game. The potential is limitless.
5) It’s an excellent way to meet locals in a new country
This is one of my secret weapons for meeting locals in pretty much every country I’ve lived in. I may not remember how much beer costs in a local bar, or what’s the best pickup line to use with the local women, but I can certainly tell you the best BJJ schools in almost every city I’ve lived in.
I can land in a new city, join a school, and instantly have access to a group of locals that I otherwise would never meet. BJJ schools are close-knit communities that transcend nationalities, races and ethnic groups. As someone who’s been training for a while, I instantly have a bit of status in any new school. It really helps to smooth a transition to a new country.
When I lived in Brazil, I met some amazing guys—both locals and foreigners—with whom I still correspond to this day. That has also happened in almost every country that I lived in.
I always carry the kimono inside my suitcase anywhere I travel. The downside is that it takes up a precious third of my suitcase. But since I consider it such an integral part of my travel, I don’t plan on freeing that space anytime soon.
6) It forces you to become comfortable with rejection
Don’t even bother training BJJ if you have a huge ego. Because two things will happen: you will quit very quickly out of frustration or you’ll get seriously injured.
What makes BJJ so bruising to your ego is that you simply don’t know how a particular sparring session will turn out. The more experienced you become, the more you expect to beat someone who just started recently. Then there’s size; if you’re a bigger guy, you would never accept being utterly demolished by a smaller guy. But what you think will happen usually bears little on what’s really going to happen. So much so, that I simply don’t have any expectations of how a particular roll will go. No expectations = no ego.
This helped me understand and conquer many other aspects of life such as business and, you guessed it: picking up women, and everything in between.
As we say in BJJ, leave your ego at the door and you’ll be fine.
7) It forces you to be social
As a guy who mostly works at home and doesn’t interact with other people, I credit BJJ with keeping me sane and social. Coming into school gives me a chance to interact with completely different people who may come from different backgrounds and experiences. Everyone is usually super friendly, so you have no excuse to be social and get to know others.
The less social you are, the slower you progress because other guys don’t know you and can’t help you with specific moves, etc.
8) It provides the perfect excuse to live in Brazil
Brazil is the mecca of BJJ—that’s where it all began. It’s also one of my all time favorite countries in the world, and a country that every heterosexual male needs to experience at least once in his life.
There are two ways of accomplishing that. The first is by moving to Brazil and not training BJJ. The second is by moving to Brazil and training BJJ. Depending on which way you choose, you’ll have a completely different experience in Brazil.
My life in Brazil consisted of work in the morning, training in the afternoon, a quick dip in the ocean, and then either drinks with friends, a date with a beautiful Carioca, or a quiet evening at home. I’ve made so many friends and connections in my BJJ school that I really cannot even imagine how different my life—and what an amazing life it really was—would’ve been if I didn’t train BJJ. I’m sure it still would’ve been great, but being able to train BJJ in the actual mecca of BJJ made it exceptionally great.
9) You’ll be able to do this:
The must have skill in your toolbox
BJJ and game have a lot in common. Both are a mental exercises to outmaneuver your opponent and get what you want. Unlike running or weight lifting, or other forms of exercise, BJJ is an actual skill, a skill that stays with you forever well after you stop learning it. While you might get a bit rusty if you don’t practice, returning to your previous level is just like riding a bike after stopping.
I think it’s really ironic that I may go through weeks of not going out and trying to pickup women, yet you’ll always find me on some mat in any country that I choose as my home. For a guy who is more or less dedicated himself to women and pickup, the reality is that most of the time BJJ is more of a priority than most other things except work.
For the reasons above, I highly recommend it to all aspiring and existing Maverick Travelers. Every school has a policy of providing a free class to new students. That means you don’t have an excuse anymore of at least not giving it a shot and seeing what’s it all about.