What Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Can Teach You About Growing Your Business

I still remember some of the comments we got after my wife and I signed up for Brazilian jiu-jitsu:

“Is that like karate?”
“You guys are crazy.”
“People shouldn’t sweat that much on each other”

Little did I know, when we first signed up four years ago, how much my life would change. Where I used to kick back after work, now I spend a few nights a week rolling around, sparring, and feeling sore for days!

Brazilian jiu-jitsu has been described fondly by many a practitioner as “the most fun you can have in your pajamas” (I guess they don’t realise I don’t wear any haha). BJJ is a grappling art. You focus on getting your opponent to the ground, controlling them, and submitting them with various types of chokes and joint locks.

It’s been a lot of fun, but challenging.

One of the coolest things about Brazilian jiu-jitsu is just how many of the key lessons apply not only on the mats, but also in growing a business.

I have broken this into a series of posts covering each part, so as to not overload you with information. With that being said, let’s take a look at the first part!

Use Leverage Instead of Force

Done right, Brazilian jiu-jitsu doesn’t require size or strength. It negates those advantages and empowers smaller people to dominate larger ones. I’ve personally trained with men and women 40-50 kilos lighter then me and have been rag dolled more often than not.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu is all about leverage and technique. Just ask my wife! When we practice our techniques at home, she’s able to get them to work on me just as well as I can get them to work on her.

The temptation for beginners is to use their strength. Now this might be okay when matched with someone at the same skill level. However when meeting someone at a higher level, it will only leave beginners worn out and breathing hard while their opponents take charge and play their own games.

I was all too guilty of this in the early days when I tried starting other businesses. I tried to force things that weren’t there, tried to grow a client list by brute force and 14-hour workdays that left me exhausted and burned out. Don’t get me wrong, that work ethic definitely has a place. However, if you couple that work ethic with a skill set of knowing how to successfully build a client base, then your results will speak for themselves. There is no substitute for knowing where your skills lie and how to use them to your advantage.

A lot of people don’t do this. They see themselves as a jack of all trades or generalists and try to do it all on their own instead of spending more time on activities that make the most impact.

Even if you know your leverage point, how much time are you spending on it every day?

If you’re a marketing consultant, this means helping your clients present their businesses in a compelling way. If you’re a designer, it’s creating beautiful work that your clients love.

Growing your business might not take a huge shift on your end. It might just take a quick look at how you structure your workday and making the necessary changes to improve your output, much like your BJJ Game plan. The better you can maximize the time you spend on your skill sets (and minimize the rest), the more impact you’ll make.

Position, Then Submission

The goal of Brazilian jiu-jitsu is to get your opponent to submit. When you put them in a situation where you could cause them a lot of harm — whether it’s a joint lock or a choke — they tap out, reset, and start again.

Naturally, everyone wants to learn the submission techniques when they first start training. Things like arm bars, collar chokes, and leg locks look slick!

One of the biggest beginner mistakes – one that you will hear time and time again – is focusing on the submission so much so that you overlook the position you require to have prior to it being able to it work. Trying to force a submission when you’re not in a controlling position leaves you in a dangerous spot, giving your opponent the advantage. “Position, then submission” is one of mantras you will hear worldwide, unless you’re some kind of super freak who can submit someone from out of nowhere inside 8 seconds.

Advanced practitioners work hard to get in a dominant position. Once they’re where they need to be, they can set up a whole bunch of different submission options. Bad news for their sparring partners! Sometimes, the person they roll with even moves in a way that creates an opportunity where there wasn’t one before.

There are plenty of parallels to business here. We want growth, we want it fast. We want to dominate our competition, every time we step into a meeting or onto the mats. Who wouldn’t?

Sometimes we get so caught up in those things that we neglect the fundamentals. We try to force an opportunity when we’re in a bad position, like trying to launch a new product when it isn’t quite ready or advertising ahead of time before the product is on the market. I have even seen ideas taken because someone has released something too soon and the competition were in a better position and took advantage of their position vs their opponents lack of.

Worst of all, trying to hit full speed all the time and being out of position makes it impossible to really seize opportunities that do come our way.

Sustainable growth is only possible if you maintain a solid position to operate from. Getting into ideal position in business might mean things like:

– De-cluttering your office space

– Delegating or outsourcing admin tasks

– Daily new ideas

– Improving your physical health (If you don’t train BJJ maybe knows the time)

– Meditate

If you stay mindful of your position, you can attack growth opportunities from a posture of strength. If a hole in the marketplace presents itself, you can act fast to fill it – instead of worrying about overextending yourself.


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