Jamie’s Blue Belt

Another inspiring letter from a graduate to Blue Belt. Oss Jamie!

blueBecoming qualified to receive my blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu represents an important milestone in my development, both personally, and as a martial artist. I began my training with BBJJ at a time of many major changes in my life. I had just moved into a new city to learn a new line of work, and gain the skills I will need to support myself. Without any previous martial arts experience, I decided to join BBJJ a month after arriving in Brooklyn, having been interested in Thai Kickboxing since I was fifteen. Immediately I was faced with challenges. Managing my schedule, developing a healthy training routine, and deciding whether martial arts training was really for me. As I met these challenges, and overcame them to face new ones, I began to understand that presenting myself with obstacles is the only way I can grow to fulfill my potential.

Initially I enjoyed entertaining the idea of entering competitions. It was quickly made clear to me that the school had no interest in training competitors. A room mate of mine had some MMA training and was encouraging me to compete like he had, despite the fact that he had quit training due to a knee injury and had gained a considerable amount of weight since. The more thought I put in to BBJJ’s philosophy on competitive training, and the more I spoke with people who had been involved in tournaments, it became abundantly clear why I myself shouldn’t be involved in competition, and what a unique environment I was training in. Several friends I went to high school with have joined BJJ teams, entered into competitions as white belts, and haven’t trained since. I now understand the value in longevity, and how much I stand to gain from a life of training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

As I graduated into the advanced program in Thai Boxing and BJJ training became available to me, I felt hesitant to join at first. I didn’t take BJJ classes very often, and took a few months to join the advanced class. It’s strange now to consider my hesitation. Mostly I think I was concerned over personal space, and whether or not I would be able to participate in live training adequately. Having been involved in the advanced program for about a year now, I can hardly imagine my life without my BJJ training. The skills I have learned on the mat have carried over into every aspect of my life. Learning to breathe, be patient, and thoughtful in an uncomfortable position has been the most valuable lesson to me. The instructors and professor have taught me to embrace and challenge my disadvantages, while presenting my advantages with grace. As I transition to blue belt, I look forward to finding and developing my style with new skills, techniques, and adjustments, while maintaining the fundamentals I have learned so far.

13 Reasons for Training

A few fantastic reasons to train that caught the eye of our very own Shihan.
Muscle Regeneration
We lose muscle as we age, about 5% every 10 years after the age of 35. This loss in muscle mass translates to a decline in metabolism and also an increased risk of injury. Strength training will reverse this process not only by building muscle, but by creating a favorable hormone environment. Any type of exercise will also increase blood flow to the body and help reverse the muscle loss as well.
Here are 10 powerful ways to stimulate muscle growth.
Better Skin
Good fitness involves eating right, exercising, and drinking plenty of water – all of which have various positive effects on your skin. Eating a nutritious diet high in vitamin C and Omega 3 fatty acids has been shown to slow the appearance of wrinkles . Exercise improves circulation to your skin, giving it more elasticity. Drinking water flushes out toxins and improves your skin’s appearance by hydrating it.
Fat Ages You
My best friend, who is 38, recently became very fit through nutrition and exercise. I was meeting her in a crowded location and walked right past her no fewer than 3 times, because I thought she was a teenager standing there. I think even I look younger at 35 than I did 10 years ago when I was 30 pounds overweight, and that is often the first impression I have when seeing body transformations – they look 10 years younger! Keeping your body healthy and fit will give you the physical appearance of someone much younger.
Youth On a Cellular Level
Exercise has been shown through research to stop the shortening of telomeres, which are tiny protective strands of DNA that prevent chromosomes from unraveling in our immunity cells. Shortening of these telomeres is thought to be caused by stress, which then opens the door to disease. Exercise reduces stress levels, which in turn prevents the damage to these cell protectors, keeping them undamaged and “younger”.
Improved Cognitive Function
Aside from the improved oxygen circulation to the brain, research has actually found that exercise can reverse the aging of the section of the brain that controls memory. As we age, this part of the brain (the hippocampus) shrinks, which is why many elderly adults struggle with dementia and memory loss. A study of 120 older adults showed a 2% increase in size of the hippocampus with exercise [4]. This increase in size was shown to positively affect memory in these adults. Many superfoods with anti-inflammatory properties, like spinach, blueberries, and omega 3 fats have also been shown to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological degenerative disorders.
Keeping your body in shape, flexible, and energizing it with nutritious food enables you to keep up with physical activities that you might otherwise have to give up as you age. Play sports, go out dancing, chase your children and grandchildren well into your later years.
HGH – Human Growth Hormone
Human growth hormone (HGH) is produced by the pituitary gland. Its decline during middle age is one reason for our aging, specifically muscle and bone loss, and skin elasticity decline. We can increase the amount of HGH we produce naturally as we age just by getting adequate sleep, and through exercise. Specifically, resistance and high intensity interval training have been shown to increase the amount of HGH our bodies naturally produce.
Bone Health
As we age, particularly women over the age of 50, we are more likely to develop osteoporosis as our bones deteriorate. Strength training prevents and even reverses this deterioration by stimulating bone growth and improving bone density. Our diet also affects our bone health, as bones are made almost entirely of calcium and phosphorus.
A reduction in overall muscle mass, core strength, and bone density often lead to a slumped over posture that is observed in elderly men and women. This can cause balance issues and stiffness/pain. Strength training, specifically core exercises, will keep your posture in good form so you can stand straight and tall into your golden years.
Youthful Hair
Eating a sufficient amount of protein in your diet, one that is rich in Vitamin B, will slow the aging process of your hair, which can become thinner, finer, and have more breakage as we get older.
Sex Drive
As we age, we produce less and less testosterone, which is responsible for much of our libido. Exercise increases testosterone production, as does a nutritious diet – keeping our sex drives alive.
Here is more about how good health makes sex better.
Lowered Risk of Disease
Both healthy diet and exercise lower your risk of diseases that are common with aging, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even some types of cancer.

Positive Self-Control

Besides being creatures of habit, we are all emotional beings. Most of the actions you take are based on your emotions.

So how do we learn to make better decisions? On the mat and off, the key is to learn to control your emotions so they don’t control you.

One of the greatest benefits you’ll see from Martial Arts training is what we call “positive self-control” when it comes to your emotions. Rather than just reacting all the time, you can learn to do three important things:

First, assess…

Then respond…

Then reset.

When you train yourself in this way, you begin to understand that there are ways that you can influence your own emotions, putting you in the driver seat.

This is a very empowering experience, one that is directly in line with the principles of Jiu-Jitsu: efficiency, effectiveness, creativity and consideration.

If you’ve ever lost control of your emotions, this usually means you’ve grown mad, sad or upset over something that’s happened to you. You’ve allowed your emotions to be in the driver’s seat, when they’d do much better as a passenger. With consistent training and practice, you can and will gain control over your emotions; and this will allow you to excel in your training and your life.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, stricken with polio at age 39, became president at the height of the Great Depression, and helped the American people regain their faith in themselves. He wrote,  “We are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of our own minds.”

What are you a “prisoner” of? What are you doing to change it?

The things you focus on day in and day out have a significant influence on your attitude. Your daily habits can have a positive or a negative impact on your thoughts and emotions. The more you direct your focus and thinking patterns, the better control you will have over your emotions.

Martial arts training puts us directly in front of ourselves. We’re reminded about both our strengths and our shortcomings on a regular basis – a personal inventory that many people lack the courage to consider. As modern warriors, we have to consider the physical, mental and emotional habits we’re building as we work towards black belt.

Thoughts lead to feelings, your feelings lead to your actions, and your actions always determine your results.

Improve your thinking and you will improve your life.