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The Jiu Jitsu of Stress

Mar 06, 2020

Reflections on creating space, recovery and combat tricks from a century ago. 

We can empower our kids with the best techniques to stay safe if someone grabs them, or teach them how to prevent a bully from hurting them 

… or we can show them what to do if a group of kids tries jumping them 

… or we can even show them how to get out of the trunk of a car they're locked inside.

The scenarios go on and on.

But the reality is, if your children don't know how to manage and cope with stress properly, they will be at much greater statistical risk throughout their lives, to encounter suffering or self imposed violence. Read that again.  

In a previous episode I shared some basic exercises, tools and discussions we can have with our kids about stress and anxiety. 

I think even more important is making sure they model how you manage stress, as that's what it's going to come down to. The are watching how you manage it, during each stage of their life, and carrying that reflection with them as a reference.

How do they cope with this? Well, that’s up to you. 

If you're the you're the kind of dad who expresses himself with, “F**k! I'm so stressed out … leave me alone right now I’m in the middle of doing … too many things going on at work … “ and you're referencing all this tension, all the time, your kids are going to respond in that exact same way. 

Let’s take a step back, and consider a more mindful approach. 

We need to be more intentional about our stress, anxiety and how we chose to manage it.

Here’s what I’m suggesting to you,

I'm noticing the trend within men's groups online, a really popular discussion toward getting involved combat sports and martial arts. 

Whether it be karate, taekwondo, judo or Brazilian jiu jitsu (which is most popular right now it seems), martial arts has entered a new resurgence of popularity. 

There are some great men out there like Jocko Willink and Joe Rogan promoting their discipline within MMA and specifically Brazilian jiu jitsu. 

It’s from this observation that I’d like to share some knowledge seldom put forward within this discussion among men and their reasoning to pursue jiu jitsu.

To most, especially the uninitiated, it is a pursuit of the alpha. A lot of guys reading this might question me on it, but it’s true. Most guys want to learn (or re-learn) how to kick ass, re-claiming their vitality and sense of toughness. To reclaim a sense of confidence that they can get-down if ever the need presents itself. 

But the masters knew different, that this was a cloak to understanding the true nature of power, essence and yes, vitality. And that was found only within the deep, deep depths of self-control. 

Internal tension is the counter to this ability, not your ability to do a flying juji gatame in the octagon.

You see, there is something much deeper and much more profound within the study of jiu jitsu than what's at surface level. 

You want to give your kids the upper-hand in self defense and being able to keep themselves safe, send them to a ju jitsu school. 

They're gonna be rolling with other kids and maybe even a couple of older mentors who will push them forward, help them get physically fit and disciplined - and generally kicking ass in life.

But there's something more that you need to recognize that I'm not so sure is so common. 

Jiu Jitsu Combat Tricks was first published in 1904 by Author, H. Irving Hancock, and arguably has the word jiu jitsu written in Roman characters for the first time.

This book is pretty interesting. For the sake of this article, I want to share the understanding of how jiu jitsu assists and helps with anxiety and stress in the practitioners life, and how this was seen then to a westerner, living in a completely different time and having completely different outlook of the world in every way.  

I want to point your attention to the very final words that Hancock gives his readers.

“Steadiness, thoroughness pay heavy dividends in the study of ju jitsu. Four years is the average length of time devoted to the study of the art in a Japanese school. Care must be taken not to carry the effort to the wearying point in anyone’s practice, so that the body may not suffer, but jiu jitsu in its best development is subtle and crafty. And the active mind can be tired very easily when the fatigue point for the brain is reached.

All further practice in that amount is detrimental to the students. Practice 20 minutes in a day is enough time to devote to this practice. If the students mind be kept keenly on the alert, the practice amount should never last longer than 1/2 an hour.

If it can be born in mind at all times, that the amount should be even more of a mental than a physical drill than the best results will be obtained in jiu jitsu.

Extreme discipline of the mind is both of requirement and a result.”

Download a free copy of Jiu Jitsu Combat Tricks

What he's expressing here is the outcome, elevated and acute mental awareness, and the only way to get there is to provide yourself that space.

He references the time of 20 minutes a day, he doesn't say you have to go to the gym to train for two hours each day, pushing yourself to extreme fatigue. He actually states clearly that this is not the path. 

I referenced space and the importance of creating space, in order for you to expand, so you can heal and allow recovery to happen. 

How then as Dad’s can we make a child relate to this? 

Well, as you may recall in the previous podcast about managing stress, I shared examples that I use in my Dojo for small kids. Doing curls with a dumb bell and asking them if I’m actually building muscle as I’m exercising. Of course they’re going to respond with ‘yes’. But as we know, I am not building, but breaking down. And this needs to be reframed for the kids listening. 

The growth happens in the recovery, where time and space is allowed to nurture to rebuilding process, making me stronger and more capable of handling more weight. In the case of stress, it means handling greater tension. 

Tension is what stress truly is. It's comes in the physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual state. In order to loosen the tension, we must learn how to create the necessary space for growth and strengthening. 

Hancock observed the Japanese Jiu Jitsu students training for 20 minutes. This seems pretty unreasonable to most martial artist’s standards for today. But why? 

It just so happens that my Sensei in Japan recommends 20 minutes a day as well, (although when in Japan we struggle through four hour training sessions daily). But Sensei suggesting this as our own personal jishu geiko, or self training and reflection.  

In the old-time Japanese jiu jitsu, 20 minutes a day was sufficient training opportunity for growth for expansion to develop a keen mind. .

And this is precisely where understanding of the mind, alertness and awareness is the true outcome in the game. Make sure that your coach or teacher (especially dads with kids going to an academy), are not just training ju jitsu as a method of kicking ass or developing skills to staying safe.

Yes, of course, these are outcomes of the art, but more important is how the art allows you to manage stress and anxiety.

Your study of the art progresses to always closer to greater levels of self-control during situations that are tense and even dangerous.

At my Dojo, the most important goal in the pursuit of martial arts is this self-control. As a student progresses, they become more capable to control any situation or even the intentions of people around them who are influencing the conditions in the moment. 

This ability comes from constant exposure to tension and recovery in your mind, in your emotions and in your body. Jiu jitsu is an excellent model for building this, and a teacher who understands this value is priceless. 

Use this in your own personal pursuit of mindfulness, of clarity, of removing anxiety from your life so that your child can model that you can have these discussions with your children and you can help them to become anxiety proof and help them to be able to manage stress so much better as they become young adults.


Side note from Author: I wouldn't want you to use Jiu Jitsu Combat Tricks as any sort of training reference. Hancock was an enthusiast of the time, along with being a practitioner. His degree of accomplishment is relatively unknown. The book is an entertaining read. He gets into trickery and weird things, but the value is found in the lens back at the time.



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