You often hear people in jiu jitsu talk about living the BJJ lifestyle. But have you ever wondered what it means to live this way? Many of the pictures and articles online bring forth images of surfing in the morning, rolling all day and eating acai bowls for every meal. That sounds great, but clearly not tenable for the majority of us working stiffs.
When I think of what it means to live the jiu jitsu lifestyle the first thing that comes to mind is the “mindset” that you develop once you start training. Prior to starting jiu jitsu if you’ve never trained martial arts before, or even if you haven’t been doing much physical activity at all, you may have spent the majority of your free time chasing temporary distractions from your day-to-day grind. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the vast majority of people are stuck in a cycle of working, eating, and finding some way to be passively entertained before heading to bed on a daily basis. I was certainly that guy. But when you start doing jiu jitsu, there is a shift in this mindset.
Jiu jitsu makes you realize that physically, there is always work to be done on yourself. You have to make decisions about diet, workouts, sleep patterns, alcohol, and how much to train. I think part of the BJJ lifestyle becomes this lifelong journey of discovering how to create the best physical traits that you can.
Since starting jiu jitsu, I (and many others in my gym) have went down a path of trying to find the best ways to enhance our training with healthy habits. I know that early on one of the coolest techniques I found was the Wim Hof breathing technique. Learning this way of breathing helped me to learn to control my breathing on the mats, as well as giving me more energy when I did the technique.
Diet research also became a new part of my life. Since starting jiu jitsu I now know much more about nutrition than I ever have before. I learned the difference between macro and micro nutrients, simple and complex carbs, the best kinds of meat to eat for the best protein and more. Some popular diet trends in the jiu jitsu community include the paleo diet, the ketogenic diet, the carnivore diet, and the vegetarian and vegan diets. One thing you figure out pretty quickly if you’re trying to get your diet on point is that there is no “one size fits all” approach to dieting. Everybody’s bodies require different nutrition to run the most effectively. And that becomes part of the BJJ lifestyle, always looking at diet and experimenting with different ways of eating.
The same thing can be said about finding the best supplementary training methods. Again, everybody’s bodies react different to various training regimes. And everybody recovers a little differently from their workouts. Knowing what workouts to supplement your jiu jitsu with (kettlebells, strong lifts, running, yoga, etc) is a proess of trial and error. How does your body feel after you workout? Do you have enough recovery time to be able to perform well at jiu jitsu after a workout? Are your workouts actually helping your jiu jitsu or are your workouts just to keep your body in good shape? These are questions that you continually ask yourself, and the answers may change over time depending on your level of health and other life circumstances.
To use dietary supplements or not to use dietary supplements? Do you need a pre-workout, or a post-workout? Do you need a protein shake with your meals? What vitamins do you think help? Again, all questions that have to be re-evaluated throughout your training depending on the intensity of your workouts, and changes you may make in your diet.
Of course no discussion of the BJJ lifestyle would be complete without talking about the vast array of cool gi’s, rashguards and t-shirts that are out there for jiu jitsu. Jiu jitsu has been increasing in popularity over the years, and with that popularity comes a desire for people to personalize their appearance on the mats. There are still a lot of schools out there that require the traditional white or blue gis, but the majority of schools that I’m aware of embrace the culture of unique expression.
The final thing I’ll talk about here is the jiu jitsu community. If you train jiu jitsu then you have probably developed a pretty tight bond with your teammates. It’s hard not to when you’re helping each other grow in this sport in the most physically demanding of ways. The friendships you develop in jiu jitsu tend to be healthy relationships that can keep you away from destructive habits, and offer the support needed to keep training even when you may feel plateaued.
So what is the BJJ lifestyle? I think it’s a mindset more than anything else. The desire to continually improve, to learn, to explore any aspect of life that can help your training. The development of healthy habits, healthy relationships, a good mental outlook and of course tough fighting skills are at the heart of the BJJ lifestyle. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that we have a bounty of cool jiu jitsu gear to geek out on!