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Confidence on your feet

This post was originally about the similarities between Jiu Jitsu and wrestling.

Not just the surface level similarities like the techniques or the cauliflower ears.

There is a lot built in to wrestling naturally that I think benefits Jiu Jitsu.

That wrestling mindset to never give up.

The level of grit.


These are all things that I think of when I think of wrestlers.

But then I started writing more from a beginners mind.

Someone with no knowledge of Jiu Jitsu or wrestling.

How would they be able to relate?

Many of the first lessons that a beginning student attends involves teaching them about balance (base) and proper body mechanics.

We spend a large percentage of our lives on our feet. But with technology becoming ever more present and life in general going from the physical to more automated. More and more people are becoming disconnected from their bodies.

My friend Sam has an excellent post on this topic titles “On Exercise and Building Character” on his website Musttriumph.

We have disembodied ourselves from our bodies. We no longer use exercise to build ourselves up, we are looking for ways to use exercise to only build up our bodies. We have reduced and isolated: machines, molecules, cells, and even ourselves. Reducing our being to only the mind. The mind has become the thing of value, just a hard drive. Our bodies the vehicle — its sole purpose is to get our minds to work and back.

Here Sam delves more into a philosophical examination of the body and the mind.

As an instructor I would often receive students with little or no athletic experience.

This made teaching them the basic of Jiu Jitsu harder compared to those students with backgrounds in other martial arts and activities.

Not only were these students physically unconditioned. Having done nothing physically tasking in their lives they had little to no awareness of their bodies.

In fact, the first lesson that I teach to complete beginners is all about how they carry themselves on their feet.

Standing in base, feet hip width or shoulder width a apart. Back straight with a slight bend in their knees.

I will emphasize these details over and over.

Physically adjusting the students into the desired body position if I have to.

Before they learn a single technique. This is the first class that all of my students go through.

Self Defense

Self defense from classical Jiu Jitsu is all about staying on your feet.

No matter the situation. Stay on your feet.

Close the distance, clinch, takedown, submit.

If you happen to slip and fall. Safely return to your feet and do the above.

It’s really quite simple.

I don’t expect most people will go through an altercation in their life. But the beauty behind teaching self defense to a beginner is that they gain a tremendous amount of confidence from the fact that they have some idea of how to handle themselves.

They know that when push comes to shove that they will be okay.

Sport Jiu jitsu

Having confidence on your feet in sport Jiu Jitsu has similar benefits.

Being able to hold your own.

Not fearing the takedown and being able to take others down.

The feeling of having a strong base. Knowing if anyone wants to take you down they will have to work for it.

There are a lot of academies that give their students a strong foundation of standing techniques such as takedowns, sprawls, and proper movement.

But as sports Jiu Jitsu continues to grow. Many schools have changed their curriculums to fit the rules of the tournaments.

Often this might mean less emphasis on certain techniques.

For example, ADCC rules stir it’s competitors away from pulling guard. Therefore takedowns become more prominent.

However this is an outlier in terms of tournaments.

The majority of tournaments don’t emphasize takedowns. Almost as if it is an afterthought.

So we see things such as double guard pulling and more battles for advantages.

I’m not saying one is better than the other. But if we get to the point where Jiu Jitsu black belts no longer have the skill to utilize their standing techniques nor the confidence to at least try them. Then we do a disservice to ourselves and future Jiu Jitsu artist.

Having confidence on your feet is the basis of all martial arts, most sporting activities and even Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

It’s in this area that wrestling, judo, and sambo are great tools for developing confidence.

Everything from self-defense to sport Jiu Jitsu starts standing.

By developing students to have confidence on their feet. We empower them to achieve great things both on and off the mats.

Think about the traits of a confident person.

Their posture.

How the hold themselves.

The way they walk.

You can tell alot about a person by the way they carry themselves.

That’s the power that we have as Jiu Jitsu instructors.

Physical exertion was and still is the first form of character building

-Sam Yang

And I think it’s something that we as Jiu Jitsu instructors and practitioners should place a greater emphasis on.

When we take the focus off of the feet. Off of having confidence on our feet. We really limit ourselves.

We limit ourselves in not being able to cross train with the other combat sports.

We limit ourselves in further developing our coordination and natural body movement

And most importantly of all we limit ourselves to all the positive benefits that having confidence on our feet instills.

Part of the reason that I wanted to go to Japan and train with the Nichidai wrestling team was to get better at takedowns and wrestling.

It’s easy to keep doing what you’ve always done. But when you step out of your comfort zone that when the real learning begins.

Step out of your comfort zone. Maybe try a wrestling or judo class.

If that’s not possible, you can always drill a few takedowns after class or even review some standing self defense techniques.

I’m not saying that you need to become the next Jordan Burroughs.

But in its complete form. Jiu Jitsu is just as much about standing technique as it is the ground technique.

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