What Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Can Teach An Entrepreneur?
Adapted from Japanese Jiu-jitsu and judo in early 20th-century, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ) is a grappling martial art and self-defense mechanism that uses throws, holds and locks to incapacitate an opponent.
As a black belt and practitioner for over 11 years, I have dedicated thousands of hours to study and train BJJ and have applied its principles in my personal relationships and business. I would like to share with you three principles that I find particularly useful.
Protect Yourself At All Times
First and foremost, BJJ is about survival; it emphasizes on defending self against larger and stronger opponents and ensure that you take minimal damage before launching your own attack.
However, many beginners are often captivated by the range of chokes and joint locks. They are in such a rush to defeat their opponent in a stunning fashion that they leave themselves open to defeat.
A corresponding example would be that of a the boxer who is so focused on winding up the devastating knockout punch that he drops his hands and leaves his own chin exposed, resulting in getting knocked out himself.
In business, I therefore always seek to protect my downside risk and try not to overextend my team’s resources to a point where the entire organization is weakened. For example, when considering an acquisition, I first think whether or not the team has the resources and capacity to integrate. If facing a difficult negotiation, one of my primary goals is to minimize negative outcomes rather than chase the huge win.
Make A Frame
Everyone intuitively understands the power of a frame. If you drop down into a squat position, your leg muscles will burn out in matter of minutes. However, you can stand straight for hours because your leg bones align to create a skeletal frame that can support your entire body weight with ease.
The same is true for BJJ. If I need to push a larger and Matt Huttner, WorldStrides PTY. LTD., YPO member from Melbourne, Australia heavier opponent, I can’t rely on my muscular strength, which will quickly be exhausted. Rather, I need to try and make strategic frames that will move my opponent without expending energy.
The parallel in the business world is relying upon individual people versus processes and systems. People are like muscles; they can be extremely effective but are also prone to getting tired or strained. Processes and systems are akin to frames; when properly aligned, they can function well for far longer with minimal effort.
I constantly strive to create redundancy and build processes that can be run by multiple people in our organization.
Definition Of A Black Belt
When I first started training, I thought of BJJ black belt as an effortless master of grace and violence, an invincible warrior. As I got further involved into the community, I instead learnt the true definition: “A black belt is simply a white belt who never gave up.”
When the day of my own black belt promotion arrived, I was suffering from a stomach virus and high fever. The promotion ceremony included teaching a class and sparring with several opponents in a row, but I was so sick that I had to quit halfway through. This failure is still enormously painful to me.
After receiving the belt, I approached my professor, Chet Quint, and actually tried to give it back to him; there was no way that I deserved the promotion after such a poor performance. But Professor Quint replied, “You are earning your black belt because of who you are and your commitment over the last 10 years, not today.”
Entrepreneurs are undoubtedly the “black belts” of the business world. It is the unyielding desire to seek solutions and start again that makes one truly invincible, in business or in life, not any one incident. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu has had a profoundly positive effect on me, and I’m looking forward to a similarly enriching journey of growth with my company.
(This article was first published in the April issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)