6 Lessons Jiu-Jitsu Taught a Survival Expert!

October 27, 2020

What did you contemplate on the eve of 2019. I have never been a fan of New Years Resolutions. The idea seems fraught with good intent and no follow through. For years now I have looked for an annual challenge. The rules for the challenge are simple – It must be something I have never done before and it’s got to be at least a little bit scary. Intentionally doing something new and scary each year helps keep my mind fresh and reminds me there is always more to learn. Challenges rarely start at New Years – I prefer to look out for them and dive in when when the time is right.

Around Feb 2018 my friend Ian Moore suggested Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). I seriously questioned the sanity of taking up a full contact martial art as a 50 year old bloke with no former experience, but hey it fit the rules perfectly – never done before, and definitely scary!

BJJ is submission wrestling. Your opponent is trying to either choke or joint lock you. In the first few weeks there were a million ways to feel uncoordinated and I was getting submitted left, right and centre. A year on there have been many lessons.

Here are my top six:

1) Turn Up – My instructor Mike Featherstone says, ‘Make a commitment to turn up for the warm up, even if you are sore, tired and don’t feel like training. At the end of warm up, if your body is telling you to rest, go home. Most times you’ll stay for training and be glad you did’. His advice applies to anything worthwhile in life I reckon. Make a start and keep showing up. Consistency makes for results.

2)Fast Feedback – instant results are intimidating, but they are gold! Find ways to get feedback for things you care about. On the mat we test moves for defense and attack. You know instantly what works and what doesn’t. Attitude is critical to this – treat the feedback like a game. If you take it too seriously ‘defeat’ may be insurmountable. With a playful attitude, find solid feedback and learn to relish it. It sharpens you like nothing else can.

3)Friendly Fire – It may seem weird in a combat art with many lethal moves that competition is ferociously friendly. People genuinely want you to get better. There’s respect in that. No one on the mat goes easy, but they always debrief, offer (and ask for) improvements. Too often in teams we shy away from robust discussion, conflict and difficult situations. Embracing those with people who care about you is gold.

4)Trust Your Team – BJJ is lethal. There are moves that could leave you permanently incapacitated. There’s an iron clad rule that when someone ‘taps out’ the fight stops immediately. It means you can play hard and minimise the risk of serious injury. Trust flows both ways, you need to trust your partner to tap if they need to, and you need to trust they will stop as soon as you tap. I can use the lesson of the ‘tap’ everywhere. Clear boundaries help the people around me bring their best, so I can bring mine too.

5)Celebrate – When people earn a belt or a stripe the club goes nuts with cheers and applause. Achievement in anything takes time and effort. Stopping to celebrate spurs us all on. We could use more of that in work and life too I reckon.

6)Play As If You Can’t Lose – Early on, tapping out sucked, but now I relish it. The option to tap means you can try things, take risks, play boldly. My fear has been balanced by a desire to have a red hot go. This translates directly into my 2019 challenge to significantly grow my business results. It will take effort, there’s a lot to learn, and it’s a bit scary, but the game will be better if I’m all in.

Your challenge doesn’t have to be physical or adventurous. It doesn’t have to last a full year. Some of mine have been short, one off events. You could make some new friends, volunteer, write your book – you’ll know if it’s the right challenge for you. Leave a comment below if you have a challenge in mind.  I’ll be continuing with BJJ in 2019 and beyond because it has contributed heaps to my life. Oh and if you want to experience BJJ for yourself come and check out the academy in Midvale……..

See you out there

Mike House

About Mike House:

Mike House is one of Australia’s leading survival instructors and a highly experienced facilitator.

He has spent 20 years working with groups as diverse as youth at risk, multinational corporations and television documentary crews on what has been described as the “world’s most arduous survival exercise outside the military” (National Geographic America 1999).



Unit 1 14-16 Stanhope Gardens, Midvale,
WA 6056 Australia

0433 356 559

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