#141 How BJJ Helps You Off the Mat

rhalan gracie jiu jitsu
Rhalan Gracie attempting a triangle.

What does Brazilian jiu-jitsu do for you when you are not actually doing BJJ? We asked you, The Mighty 600,000 that question and you responded! We received some great phone calls on our toll free number from you, which we put before our guest, a sports and forensic psychologist here in San Diego, Albert Oppedisano.

The range of answers we got was really interesting and just go to show how beneficial jiu-jitsu is for people. From helping people deal with daily struggles, to being better at their jobs, to bringing families together, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a very healthy lifestyle.

We will also speak with Andrew Smith of US Grappling, who conducted their second tournament yesterday where you can only win by submission! That’s right: no time limits, and no points. Just submissions. So we will catch up and see how that turned out.

Don’t forget that you can contact us to get your questions answered here on The FightWorks Podcast: BJJ Radio too! Just call (877) 247-4662!

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The FightWorks Podcast: …Why don’t you explain to our listeners what you are looking at right now?

Albert Oppedisano: I am looking at a very famous psychological perspective called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It’s very interesting that Caleb brought this out today. It is interesting to look at from a sports psychology perspective because it’s also used – I also do forensic [psychology] work, I am a hostage negotiator – and this is something that we actually use in developing and understanding people who are in crisis. It’s a very interesting way of looking at what our needs are in every day normal life, or a crisis situation, or even in a sports setting.

The FightWorks Podcast: For those who did not take Psychology 101 at some point in university or have never heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, picture a pyramid, and at the bottom is a level of needs that are most important for somebody to survive. At the top, are items that are less important on a physical basis but if you can reach that level you are – according to the theory – the most you can be as a human being, you are actualized and whatever other terminology you want to put around it. I brought this out to you Albert because I was a psychology major in college. I don’t know if anyone out there listening knows that, but… I brought up [Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs on the computer] and I thought, “holy crap, there are probably three or four different parts in this model where jiu-jitsu fits, where it seems to appease different levels to some degree”. Am I right?

Albert Oppedisano: Absolutely, and if you look at the way it works: the Physiological [needs] being at the bottom of the triangle, we work our way up to Safety, our next stage is Love and Belonging, then there is Self-Esteem, and then Self-Actualization. As we move up the triangle into becoming more self-actualized, we are growing basically. That’s how I look at it. As you move up the triangle, you are experiencing more in-depth relationships, there is a more intimate interaction between you and others, and even in yourself… So I think you are right, jiu-jitsu, when you look at this triangle, there are different components being satisfied.

The FightWorks Podcast: As for the Physiological, jiu-jitsu doesn’t technically help us breathe, eat, find water, have sex, or any of those excretion activities, necessarily, but from there upwards, the second level is Safety and things related to one’s security. It’s pretty obvious how jiu-jitsu makes us feel okay with that.

Albert Oppedisano: Sure! Even physiologically, it makes us perform better because we’re in better shape. We breathe better, we are able to function better, so we’re back to homeostasis, right? It gives us that opportunity to function better as human beings basically.

The FightWorks Podcast: The next level…

Albert Oppedisano: Yes, Safety, I think you hit it on the head. Look, the more we feel in control… I think one of the things jiu-jitsu gives us is a feeling of control over our environment and that awareness. You can really see where the safety component comes in. It gives us that inside look to be aware of things. Because in jiu-jitsu if you’re not aware of what’s happening and what your opponent’s doing –

The FightWorks Podcast: – you’re going to get tapped.

Albert Oppedisano: You’re going to get tapped.

The FightWorks Podcast: The next level is interesting I think because they call this the Love and / or Belonging Level. I don’t want to get too foo-foo about it but it’s where we seek out things like relationships with friends, and family, and so on. Obviously it’s very concrete here on The FightWorks Podcast where we talk about “The Family” all the time. Not just our listeners but the people you train with, the extended family of people out there in the world who do jiu-jitsu, well it gives us a sense of a group.

Albert Oppedisano: Absolutely. And at the core, you understand parts of that person. The same reason that we are able to have this conversation, when you meet someone that trains, you understand something about them. You understand their level of dedication to training, to their intelligence, to being willing to put themselves in situations where they have to be humble, where they have to work at being smart, and have to work at learning constantly. So I think it is really interesting that when you do your podcast, you use the word “family”, because that’s what you do, you get this extended family. I think that’s why a lot of us, after class, we hang out. We catch up, we talk about things, we talk about the class and how hard we were training because there is that sense of camaraderie –

The FightWorks Podcast: – of tribe.

Albert Oppedisano: Yes, of tribe, absolutely. And that camaraderie goes very deep and that’s another thing that we get out of training jiu-jitsu. It’s that connection to other people. [The sense that], “Hey this person understands me. They’re willing to put up with the injuries, the hard work, the challenges, the letting go of the ego.” How often are people really willing to let go of their ego? Look, in jiu-jitsu you can be dominated. You can be dominated to a point where you pass out, you’re choked out, or you have to tap. You have to be willing to do that. And there’s a great opportunity to learn there.

The FightWorks Podcast: The next level is the Esteem level, where we talk about gaining confidence, respect of others, respect by others. That’s what this fourth level in the Hierarchy of Needs talks about, is getting that confidence and self-esteem, and I think that’s pretty self-evident in jiu-jitsu.

Albert Oppedisano: Absolutely. And I think that’s the interesting thing about the call from your listener from New York who stated that jiu-jitsu is a metaphor for life and that it gives him insight into his shortcomings. That insight is where we learn, where we develop our self-esteem. So if we know that, “Look, I have trouble with being assertive”, or “I have trouble being confident in certain situations”, when you train that becomes a component. We become more confident, we become more secure, we know that, “I feel better when I train, I have a sense of control, I have a sense of understanding” which really helps develop that sense of self-esteem, which I think is such a critical piece.

The FightWorks Podcast: Or like Mariusz there in Edinburgh, who said that now he feels more confident about going to testify in the courtroom to gain his son back.

Albert Oppedisano: Sure! You can imagine how much anxiety and how scary that can be! Going to court [about] something that you’re so emotionally involved in. And if jiu-jitsu gives him that strength, and helps him develop that self-esteem, that is a tremendous reward. That’s why it hurts so much. That’s why we train so hard. Because there is a tremendous reward at the end of the day.

The FightWorks Podcast: And speaking of the “end of the day” reward of all of this, the final piece in Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs is the Self-Actualization part, which is where – in this theory – you become the best person you can be through things like morality and creativity. That’s really obvious in jiu-jitsu. Spontaneity and problem solving skills, those are all such a part of what happens when you go train jiu-jitsu.

Albert Oppedisano: And I think that so much of self-actualization comes from letting go of that ego, letting go of those things that make us rigid, letting go of the things that limit the insight that we have into who we are as a person. When you get to self-actualization, you understand things about yourself like, “It’s okay not to be perfect. It’s okay to have shortcomings.” And to understand that really gives us the ability to move forward in our lives, to interact, and to engage in a much more active way, which really stimulates growth. And that’s why we work our way up the triangle [of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

One Reply to “#141 How BJJ Helps You Off the Mat”

  1. C-
    I didn’t get a chance to call (and didn’t want to since I tend to ramble) so I blogged my response. Also, it doesn’t directly answer your question… and is pretty rambly anyway….

    There I go again.


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