Why Meditate?

Meditation is one of the most powerful tools for improving your martial arts abilities and your life.  Here’s how it will help your Jiu-Jitsu:

1.  Meditation helps you relax.

95% of all BJJ beginners are way too tense.  They can go for 2 or 3 minutes, then they’re too tired to continue.  So they think, “I’m out of shape.  I need to do more cardio and I’ll last longer.”

This is not a long term solution.  You can be in great shape and still only last 5 minutes- not good enough in BJJ!  The problem is that when you tense most of your muscles, you are burning way more energy and requiring way more oxygen for your muscles and this creates way more work for your heart than necessary.  You will last longer if you do cardio, but your technique may still be inadequate and you’re burning more energy than you have to.

When you are moving your arm for example, and your tricep and bicep are both tense, your muscles are actually working against eachother.   Your bicep is the muscle that is responsible from bringing your hand toward you, and your tricep is responsible for pushing your hand away from you.  If you only had a bicep, you would not be able to push your arm away from your body.  When you are using both opposing muscles at the same time, it’s like saying you want to get first place in a marathon, then you put on a weighted vest!  Why make Jiu-Jitsu harder than it needs to be?

In this sense many people beat themselves.  Yes, their partner submitted them, but who was it that made themselves so tired that they wanted the match to be over?  In this way students of the art can make themselves their own worst enemy!

Working on your cardio is great for your health, and helps in training, but how about learning to relax?  You can actually be in not great shape and last a long time because you aren’t burning energy when you don’t have to.  I have seen Rigan Machado be in not as good of shape as his his partners, but by the end of the match (after he taps them), they are sweating and tired, and he is not.  Even if he is in not great shape he is only using the muscles he needs to when he needs to.

David Meyer, one of Rigan Machado’s original black belts, told me “closed hand, closed mind.  Open hand, open mind.”  One meaning of this is when you grab onto something, you lose your sensitivity.  You are no longer responding to what your partner is doing, you are forcing your will.  This is sometimes the best thing to do, and sometimes the worst.

Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, had 2 precepts hanging on the wall in his dojo: 1) maximum leverage, minimum effort; and 2) be a good partner.  To practice maximum leverage means you are using technique and not just strength.  If you are unnecessarily tense when you train, you are not doing Jiu-Jitsu.

2.  Meditation helps you become more aware.

Most adults have at least a little A.D.D. (attention deficit disorder).  The t.v. screen changes on average every 2 seconds.  Our modern life constantly bombards with sensory stimulation.  We have been trained not to pay attention to any one thing for any length of time!

This has a bad effect on the practice of Jiu-Jitsu.  To combat this problem of not being able to concentrate and lack of awareness, you have to practice concentration and awareness.  Practicing seated or moving meditation is a practice of concentration and awareness.  The more often and deeper that you meditate, you will find that you start to notice the smallest things about your partner and yourself.

This afternoon I was doing a private with a student where we ended up rolling for 45 minutes.  I was in his guard,  and I was letting him attack me without trying to pass.  He set up a cross choke, I leaned to my right to prevent him from getting a deep grip, and I noticed he looked at my arm.  That was my cue to defend the armbar!  That little thing that I noticed bought me an extra second to help prevent being armbarred.  If I had not noticed him glancing at my arm, I would have had to do an escape, or tap, rather than preventing the attack.

3.  Meditation is great for the brain.

Research is showing that as exercise can sculpt the body, meditation sculpts the brain.  Dr. Sara Lazar, an assistant in psychology at Massachusetts General Hospital reports:

“We have found that brain regions associated with attention and sensory processing were thicker in meditators than in the controls.  The data give credence to some of the claims of long-term meditators and suggests that meditation can play a role in reducing stress, improving emotion regulation and perhaps slowing the effects of aging on brains – slowing the normal decrease in mental agility, ability to learn new things and memory that comes with age.”

Brain scientists call this rewiring and upgrading of the brain “neuroplasticity.”  It makes sense that if we can improve our muscles by exercise, we can improve our mental fitness as well!

Dr. Richard Davidson, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health concludes:

“We all know that if an individual works out on a regular basis, that can change cardiovascular health,” he says. “In the same way, these data suggest that certain basic mechanisms of the mind, like attention, can also be trained and improved through systematic practice.”

Good news for those of us who struggle!  John Assaraf and Murray Smith, authors of The Answer, refer to meditation and other inner work as innercise (as opposed to exercise.)

4.  Meditation is good for your emotions.

The mind and body are linked.  Notice your physical state whenever you are angry or scared:  short, quick breaths, tightness in your muscles, increased blood pressure, sometimes accompanied by other negative side effects like dry mouth and sweating.  You can think clearly and have less control of your muscles and your emotions.

When you are peaceful, happy, or relaxed, your breathing is often slower and deeper.  You are relaxed.  You can think clearly and you are are in better control of your emotions.

Watch a baby breathe.  They will usually breathe from their lower stomach.  Adults usually breathe from their upper chest, taking in less oxygen.

When you develop the habit of meditation, you are practicing calmness and relaxation.  This is really useful when someone is passing your guard, or setting up a choke!  Your breathing will be deeper and lower, and you are able to respond better because you are less afraid, more relaxed, and more aware.

If you haven’t done so yet, check out the post “How to Meditate.

One Response to “Why Meditate?”

  1. […] part of my research for this I found a good article on meditation for BJJ is here at the BJJ […]

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