10 years in BJJ and 10 lessons I’ve learned (Part 1)

I feel like it was yesterday that I took my first BJJ class. Sadly, that was over 10 years ago. That’s right; I’ve been training Brazilian Jiu-jitsu for over 10 years! Just being able to say this makes me feel proud and super old. In honor of my landmark I came up with 10 solid lessons and experiences I’ve personally learned and share them. Each lesson will have a personal story to accompany it and then I’ll give a take-away. I will share highs and lows as well as some embarrassing moments in my BJJ career. I hope that you get something out of the stories and the lessons that go with them.

“Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all.” – William Temple

“There is no respect for others without humility in one’s self.” – Henri-Frederic Amiel

“Self-praise is for losers. Be a winner. Stand for something. Always have class, and be humble.” – John Madden

“Arrogance invites ruin; humility receives benefits.” – Chinese Proverb

1.Be a humble person to those around you  – When I started training BJJ I was 18 years old. After about 6 months of constant training and competing I received my blue belt. At the time of receiving the belt, there were not many high ranking belts in the area. Most of the “higher” belts were purple belts. My streak of tournament wins combined with how quickly I acquired my blue belt as well as my 19 year old immaturity made me feel like a total “bad ass”. In addition to this, my instructor at the time wasn’t the best for putting a lid on this disrespectful attitude, instead he encouraged it. When I competed, especially at local tournaments, I felt like I was some sort of fighting animal that he could brag about after a win. Sadly, I kind of enjoyed it when I was in my “bad ass” phase. I was still a nice person, but I definitely had an obnoxious streak especially when it came down to winning, losing and competing.

3 examples of my antics

1. After being submitted I would smack the mat and drop the F Bomb.

2. I would gloat about winning constantly.

3. I would talk down about others and their BJJ.

Fast forward to early 2007 I had a conversation with my friend who would eventually become one of my BJJ coaches. He and I met up for lunch and he informed me that I could no longer train at his gym because of the negative associations that came along with my current instructor. At this point I had trained with Colin here and there for a while and considered him a friend. I didn’t want to be unable to hang out and train with my buddy! That moment made me realize the path I was on, and if I continued my path I would end up being like my instructor. He was someone who was isolated in the local BJJ community because of their brashness and poor attitude towards others. I knew deep down that I was not that kind of person, so soon after I separated from my instructor and began the “humblization” process under my new coaches. I am a confident person but I’ve done my best to rid myself of that my previous cocky, egotistical edge. I don’t think I would be a successful instructor, competitor or even liked in the community if I hadn’t done that.  This was one of the best lessons I ever learned through BJJ and has definitely carried over into other aspects in my life.


The take away

No one wants to be around a cocky jerk that is full of him or herself. One of the best parts about this sport is the amazing communities, and you cannot be a part of these communities if you don’t lose your ego! If you do not lose these negative traits you will find yourself more and more isolated. People will shy away from training with you. You won’t fit in with your academy because you will be “that guy” everyone loves to tap because he has a big ego. If you somehow manage to retain this nasty quality into your higher ranks you will most certainly be shunned by many of your peers and will have a hard time finding people to cross train with and share knowledge. To top it off, it will severely hinder your ability to learn and grow in skill. Trust me, you don’t want this. Take it from someone who was once “that guy” in the gym.  Just be humble to the people around you.

2 replies
  1. Meghan
    Meghan says:

    This is going to be a great series! Once you’ve finished all 10 if you don’t mind I’d love to link it in my own blog. I think you have some really amazing things to say and lessons to share, which I’m sure we could all benefit from!

    • Chewy
      Chewy says:

      I appreciate the kind words and by all means, please feel free to share. I’m glad you enjoyed the post so far. If any of the tips I eventually list in this series resonate with you. I’d love for you to share your own experience with them.


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