BJJ and Leadership

In August, we enrolled my son in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Jack is a very active kid full of energy so we thought this would be an avenue to channel some of that energy. I knew very little about BJJ. From what I read, it teaches discipline and hard work, which were two characteristics that we believed would benefit Jackson throughout his life. He loved his first class. Of course little sister became interested eventually too!

My husband noticed that there was a Women’s Only Class twice a week and encouraged me to go. My first thought was absolutely not. If you’re not familiar with what BJJ is, it involves submissions which means your opponent tries to get you to tap by doing things like choking you or doing an armbar to hyperextend your elbow. This was intimidating. I continued to research about BJJ and found not only is it a good workout but it can help with self defense. So I decided to give it a try and I loved it.

My instructors, Ninja and Morena, giving me my first stripe.

I’ve been doing BJJ for 5 months now. At first I would only go to the Women’s only class 1-2 a week now my goal is to go 5 days a week if I’m not traveling. I did my first in house tournament in December and it did not go well for me, but I was able to reflect on the things I need to do to get better.

There are many leadership lessons you can learn from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Here are a few lessons that I utilize on a daily basis.

  1. Overcoming Fear– we all have fears. Whether it is a fear of stepping on the mat and getting my butt kicked or even worse getting hurt or something that I am terrified of- losing my kids and husband. Our fears may be small or big, they may be justified or unjustified, but we all have them. The unfortunate part is that fear can prevent us from being the best versions of ourselves. So many times people do not do something for the fear of what “could” happen. Often times the stories in our heads are much worse than what would in reality happen. so what do we do to overcome fear?
  • Act- do something. Do it scared if you have to. Move forward and progress towards the goal you want. Don’t let fear prevent you from the life/goal you want. 
  • Create Affirmations– these are statements that align with what you want to be and what your goals are. When you get in a tough spot, and believe me, we all do, I go to my affirmations and repeat them until I believe them. When my head puts those awful fears of losing my family, I go to my first affirmation “I have a healthy family.” 
  • Find a buddy-In BJJ, it may be a training partner that is experiencing the same newness as you. Or maybe it’s a best friend or spouse- find someone because together is better. 

2. Learner Mindset- when was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone and did something you knew nothing about? We tend to get comfortable in life, doing the things we know and are good at. It’s the safest path and doesn’t require extra effort. Growth happens when we are outside of our comfort zone. Doing BJJ is outside my comfort zone. I like to be good at things so coming into something that I’ve never done it’s important to approach something brand new in a way that sets you up for success.

  • Stay Humble – BJJ is very humbling. You will get beat. You will get beat by someone smaller than you or not as smart as you. If you can’t lose and have that fuel you to get better, this sport is probably not for you. This approach is important is business too. I have seen multiple situations where if the people involved could check their egos at the door, we’d accomplish so much more.
  • Ask Questions– if you don’t understand a move or why to do it the way the instructor was teaching it that way- ASK! When I take on a new role or try something new, I ask a lot of questions. I like to understand the process of things and try to make it better. If you don’t take the time to ask questions and just assume things, you may be slowing your growth.
  • Practice Failing– what a better way to practice taking a little risk and getting back on your feet. The word failure has such a negative vibe. It’s really not. It’s a way to grow and learn. My first BJJ fight I failed. It didn’t go like I was expecting and I got beat. Was I embarrassed- Yes! Was I pissed- Yes! I do not like to lose. I really had two choices- quit or maybe just come to some class and not care about getting better OR put my head down, train hard and grind it out to get better!! (I am choosing the second one!) I’ve failed on the mats and off- every time I do this I learn and get better. Don’t be afraid to fail, if you’re afraid to fail you will sell yourself short.

3. Timing- I’ve noticed in BJJ that a lot of the moves are all about timing. Getting your opponent off balance or waiting for them to make a mistake and then capturing on that moment. It’s hard to force things, even if you are stronger. You end up wasting time and energy. As a white belt, I do not have the technique and skills of higher belts so I am often wasting a lot of energy. I know in order to improve this I need to be patient and continue to work on my skills. I coach/manage several early talent and am trying to instill the importance of timing and being prepared when the time comes. We tend to be always searching for the next best thing and forget to dig into what we’re currently doing, make impact and make some memories. You want to prepare for the future but not let it get in the way of becoming great in your current role.

“To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents.

What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.”

-Sir Winston Churchill

If you’re in the KC area and interesting in training BJJ- check out