For those that train Jiu Jitsu it is hard to put into words why we become so enamored with being on the mat. It becomes much easier to share this passion with fellow practitioners yet when attempting to explain to someone who has not yet taken their first class, words cannot really explain the obsession. There have been some great articles on the addictive nature of Jiu Jitsu including a favorite of mine by clinical psychologist, and a long-time student of BJJ, Dr. David Ley. Ever since reading Dr. Ley’s article I have continued to wonder what other forces drive us to crave Jiu Jitsu. In my search I found what I think are some very applicable connections when reading The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman.
In The Five Love Languages book, Dr. Chapman explains how each person in a relationship shares and processes love differently based on which of the five languages they most align with. These are not relevant only in romantic relationships but really any connection with another person in your life. As I digested these five different styles I realized that Jiu Jitsu in one way or another has something to offer everyone, no matter what their love language.
In order to better understand, below I will delve into all of the love languages and how each drives our allure to Jiu Jitsu.
- Words of affirmation
This language is all about positive verbal feedback. This one can be very much dependent on your training partners and coaches but often times as you train or drill you are getting live feedback from your coach and or drilling partner. The need for a training partner in Jiu Jitsu forces discussion and feedback. If you crave words of affirmation you will be satisfied, but it will likely be from specific training partners and coaches.
- Quality time
For our second language the focus is on undivided attention, for which Jiu Jitsu has in spades. The nature of training is such that you and your rolling partner can do nothing but focus on one another until the match is over. Just try to think about something else during that time and you will be brought back to reality when you need to tap out. If you crave living in the moment and interactions that focus on full concentration, Jiu Jitsu certainly has you covered.
- Receiving gifts
Dr. Chapman says in his book that some people need small, tangible gifts to feel loved. This need for appreciation is probably the language that Jiu Jitsu has least alignment with. That said I think these individuals will still be satisfied through the belt promotions. Although they are earned and not gifted belts can feel like one of the best gifts you have ever received. Despite the fact that there is little relevance to a belt, it is still a symbol of your time investment, growth and commitment. Due to the fact that the timing of a belt promotion is at the sole discretion of your professor, receiving a belt promotion is usually a surprise and feels like a gift from the heavens.
- Acts of service
If this is your love language then actions speak louder than words to you. People who speak the language of service want people in their life to recognize that their life is rough and help them out in any way possible. Lending a helping hand shows you really care. If you're not willing to show your appreciation by doing these people a favor, you're saying you don't value them. On the mat you will be rewarded by the upper belts who stay after class to answer your questions or give you an impromptu free private instruction just because they want to share the art.
- Physical touch
To this person, nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate touch. That doesn't mean only in the bedroom — everyday physical connections, hugging, a pat on the back, or any type of re-affirming physical contact is greatly appreciated. A person who speaks the language of physical touch isn't necessarily an over-the-top PDA'er, but making that physical connection does make them feel safe and loved. This is an interesting one because touch in Jiu Jitsu is with intent to harm, yet at its core this connection is playfully animalistic. In the animal world this play is common and so entertaining to those that catch a glimpse of play at its truest from.
Jiu Jitsu truly does change lives and I think partly through how it caters to all five ways we as humans crave positive connection. If you have a hole in your life and feel a lack of fulfillment, Jiu Jitsu has the ingredients to fill that void. You must be an active participant in the process, but by doing so will connect you to something that feels like you cannot live without.
Our connection to Jiu Jitsu all comes back to interaction with the other practitioners, so really what we are addicted to is our new found friends. The mat forces the hand of those around us to fulfill us in a way that we crave. It is important to recognize that it is the people’s actions around us that make us love Jiu Jitsu.
In addition to being an extremely fulfilling way to connect with our peers, the way we learn Jiu Jitsu has something for every style of learning. When your coach teaches a new move you can visually watch the move being done, you can listen to the steps if you are an auditory learner, and then for the kinesthetic learners you get to physically go through the steps.
So why is Jiu Jitsu so addictive? In short because it welcomes and nurtures every different combination of how people love and learn. As students of Jiu Jitsu that understand these connections we are now tasked to nurture those around us and students under our tutelage. I encourage you to make an effort to understand which of these languages your go to training partners resonate with and find ways to connect that aligns with their love language. The more fuel we add to this fire the more the art of Jiu Jitsu and its addictive nature will spread.