By former Royal Marines Commando Mike Bates
There are very few pursuits that expose you in the way that jiu-jitsu does. Often in everyday life people hold a lot of themselves back. But when you’re on the mat, you can’t hide, we see the real you.
As a Royal Marines Commando I learnt a mindset that set me in good stead for the dedication it takes to progress in jiu-jitsu. The Commando qualities that we demand in the Corps are: courage; determination; leadership; unselfishness; and cheerfulness in the face of adversity.
These values serve you well when you are serving on the frontline, protecting your brothers in arms. But this is also an approach that you take out into the rest of your life, and these qualities serve you particularly well in jiu-jitsu.
Courage and determination speak for themselves, because you need both of these things to do anything that requires pushing yourself and putting your body on the line.
Leadership is obviously important in the military, but also on the mats, because as you begin to learn a few techniques, showing other people how to do them is the best way to find out what you do and don’t know yourself. Teaching is a great way to learn.
Unselfishness is also key. You need to look after your comrades on the battlefield, and the same thing goes with your training partners in jiu-jitsu. You look after them, they look after you, and everyone progresses together. And along the way you build bonds stronger than anything I’ve seen outside of the military.
As for being cheerful when things go wrong. Well, jiu-jitsu is a lot of fun but it is not always easy and you need to be able to laugh it off when your best move ends in a face-plant. It has happened to everyone and you need the little setbacks to remind you to be on your game.
Approaching jiu-jitsu with this mindset does not mean your journey will be a walk in the park. But the determination and selflessness you put into it will be rewarded. It took me eight years of committed training and competing before I got my blackbelt. But it is an achievement I hold as dear as the day I received my Green Beret.
Mike is a black belt under Prof. Victor Estima and runs Gracie Barra Roundhay Leeds. Mike is currently training to row solo across the Atlantic ocean to raise money for the Leeds Hospitals Charity.