Have you ever heard people judge someone for doing BJJ for “the wrong reasons” or heard “that’s not why you should do BJJ?” Here is the absolute BEST reason to do jiu jitsu – the one that trumps them all. This is not specific to jiu jitsu – it’s about ANY healthy endeavor in life – losing weight, running, roller derby, yoga, etc.
The Best Reason to do BJJ
A GOOD reason to do jiu jitsu is: whatever reason keeps you coming back. You want to be a world champ? That’s a good reason. You want to have more positive touch in your life? That’s a good reason. You want to be healthier? That’s a good reason. You want to earn a blue blet? That’s a good reason. You need a break from your kids and need some grown-up time? That’s a good reason.
These are merely good reasons because some are temporary. What happens if you have achieved it, or you realize you can’t? What will keep you coming back?
The BEST reason to do BJJ is: whatever will keep you coming for the rest of your life. Your short term motivation may be to get a blue belt, to make new friends, to take a baby break, or to try something new. And that’s AWESOME – it’s keeping you coming in the door now – but what will keep you coming in when you’re 50? 70? THAT’S the best reason.
Actions Matter More Than Motivation
How we treat folks should be based on what they do rather than why they do it (again, unless it’s world domination – that needs to stop NOW). Motivation is internal. Actions are external. Motivation gets you through the door, and actions are what you do after you’re through the door. Your teacher and teammates have every right to judge you based on how you act in jiu jitsu. Not working hard, chatting during instruction, deciding to do a different technique, not paying attention – those will rightly earn you negative judgement.
But what SHOULDN’T earn negative judgment is WHY you are there, regardless of the reason (except for world domination, dang it!). Yes, women, fat people, small people, differently-abled people will all need to work harder to gain respect, but again – it’s the ACTIONS that should be judged.
It makes me really sad to read comments that amount to “X reason to train is not as valuable as Y reason to train.” What we should be judging is how they act in class – are they following protocol? Are they doing their best and trying every day? There is room in BJJ for the hobbyist, the self-defense person, and the tournament folks. Is every gym perfect for every person? Of course not. But it doesn’t mean that one’s motivation need to be on trial for you to go to a jiu jitsu gym.
You Deserve to Train Jiu Jitsu
I’m a hobbyist. I’m at jiu jitsu to connect to people, to do something I enjoy, to maintain health, and to learn. Sometimes in that order. When I encounter people who judge that motivation, here’s what I say:
“Why does it bother you? I focus during class, I try my best, I roll every round, I encourage others, and I try to be a good teammate. That’s all that needs to matter to you – my reasons are my reasons, no better or worse than yours. Let’s go train now.”
Unfortunately, I’ve heard many a white belt say that they didn’t want to waste someone’s time. This drives me batshit crazy – YOU DESERVE TO TRAIN! Yes, as a white belt, you suck – and that’s okay! We were all sucky white belts at one point! It’s really terrible when people have internalized this self doubt and feel that “I’m only here for losing weight – she’s here to really learn jiu jitsu – therefore I don’t want to waste her time.” In this case, make sure your actions are what you judge, not your motivation.
The Only Reason You Should be Training BJJ
In the Story of Life, you are the protagonist. The camera is on YOU. You are the main character. Your choices affect you. In your mom’s Story, she is the main character, trying to guide her daughter or son as well as live her own life. In your instructor’s Story, he is the protagonist, dealing with hundreds of students daily. Everyone in your life is the equivalent of a supporting cast, so decide why YOU are doing jiu jitsu – for YOU. That’s why you need to own your reasons.
This is Easier in Theory
It’s so easy to feel “my reason is the best reason” without adding —for me to the end. I was guilty of this during Peace Corps. I negatively judged those who said “I’m here because I had nothing better to do” or “I just wanted to take a break from my life.” I judged them because I felt my reasons were the best, but what I failed to take into account – they were still THERE. Regardless of their reasons, they showed up and committed two years of their lives to Peace Corps. In the end, WHY they were there didn’t matter – it was THAT they were there and WHAT they did that actually mattered.
Why is This Important?
We’re all different people with a variety of motivations, and just because your reason is best for you does not mean it’s best or appropriate for everyone else. For instructors, it may help you be a better teacher, because by understanding your students’ motivation, you can help motivate them or support their experience in a deeper way. It can help with how you structure your classes, or which moves to teach. If they end up quitting, it might help you understand why. For teammates, it can help you support your teammates better. But overall, don’t we all like being understood and supported? If you’re looking to retain more students and teammates, understanding is one step of that puzzle.
Though if you find someone doing BJJ in order to conquer the world, please shut that down immediately.
Jiu Jiu’s Question: Why do you do BJJ? What keeps you coming back? Have you been judged or judged others for not having the “right” motivation? How have you or others responded?