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About 2 months ago, my girlfriend and I were having cocktails at the Milk Street Distillery (they make great cocktails, if you partake in the consumption of spirits).  I suddenly found myself asking if I could smell her drink to gauge the alcohol content after only the first round.  The reason why?  Out of nowhere she said, “I’d like to try training jiu jitsu.”

I was ecstatic to hear this and fully supportive of her interest, but let me step back for a minute to explain why her possible inebriation was my initial reaction.  My girlfriend and I have known each other since the fifth grade (that’s approximately 35 years, although we have only been dating for the last 10).  In all that time she has never shown the least bit of interest in anything athletic, nor has she been the type to challenge herself physically.  She’s also admittedly very out of shape, and well past her athletic prime.  So why would someone who has minimal interest in physical activity be interested in training in such a tough sport?  I asked her myself, and the answer was intriguing.

An important reason for her interest in BJJ was to strengthen our relationship, which is certainly not something you typically hear as a motivation to train.  Specifically, she said that training alongside me allows us to spend more time together, getting better at the same activity.  We also have new topics to talk about, such as the technique of the week.  The alternative would be for us to have separate hobbies, where paying attention to each other was not necessary.  Of course, part of her reason was to start taking better care of herself through exercise, as well as to get a better understanding of the techniques we see during MMA fights.  However, the important message here is that sometimes the best reasons to train BJJ have nothing to do with the sport itself.

Here’s an excerpt from the e-mail she sent me when I asked her to describe her decision to start training BJJ:

“I heard how much they [Dave and his friends] enjoy every aspect:  the physical exertion; the strategizing; the comradery.  [I] see the results- how they gradually get stronger, build muscle, lose weight, and gain insight to themselves and to life situations.  When I mentioned that I might be interested, not only was Dave excited and supportive, so were all of our friends.  I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to do anything at all, or I wouldn’t be able to keep up with everyone one else.  That’s not the case; you go at your own pace.  [H]aving a good (and patient!) teacher who helps you understand the principles first and then pushes you to improve certainly helps.  In addition, not only do I get to spend more time with Dave, I know that he will help keep me motivated.  [A]ll the great people I have met and become friends with as a result of training are a great support group as well.  We all train together, sweat together, learn together, ache together, and succeed together.  Everyone is invested in helping you get better, and you realize that you are just as invested in them as they are in you.  [I]t’s exciting and fun, and I feel a real sense of accomplishment after each class.”

It’s undeniable that training BJJ will improve your physical condition.  If you have good training partners, you will also build strong friendships.  However, my girlfriend’s story also shows that sometimes a good friendship can be the motivation to start training, rather than the result of training.

And just in case you were wondering, she still loves training BJJ at week six, and I love watching her get better each and every week.

  • Dave (with assistance from Melinda)

P.S.- I’d be remiss if I did not give a lot of the credit for Melinda’s choice to Gael Force BJJ’s head instructor, Alex Kennedy.  Melinda has repeatedly said that Alex’s overall demeanor was an important factors in her starting to train BJJ in Morris County (she met him several times before making her decision).  I’ll talk more about the importance of having a good instructor in a future post, though