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Jiu-Jitsu Applications in Business

Updated: May 8, 2023

"Precision in everything", is what Professor Pedro Valente said during one of his micro sermons at the end of class. He had 80 plus people, 160 eyeballs staring at him while they were standing tall, hanging on his every motivating word. The students stood in one of three or four different postures, sweat dripping from their brows, some out of breath after an intense hour plus long class. I only picked up the practice of Jiu Jitsu (JJ), specifically the teachings of the very traditional Valente family, a little more than six months ago but I've drank the kool aid and not since 1996 when I did my first triathlon have I felt a connection to another sport/hobby/practice, whatever. Being a little older and a bit wiser now I won't be diving into JJ like I did with triathlon though. For now it's a wonderful activity where I'm out of my comfort zone, forced to be humble, learn new things and be involved in a great community. Of course, I have to see how JJ can apply to business because that's just where my mind goes.

I've found a few components of JJ which are so applicable to business and can be a very valuable asset.

First, as I mentioned above, precision in everything. Can't we take this into everything we do at work. Writing a reply email? Proofread and make the thoughts, next steps, point all precise. I did a technique where I threw my partner off my back and my foot was about 20 degrees off what it should have been. Sure, the throw worked but the foot position wasn't precise and Professor pointed it out to me. Precision in everything.

Second, humility. This is a tough one. Being fifty years old and starting a completely new discipline and knowing absolutely nothing is wonderfully humbling. This is especially true after becoming an expert in my previous sporting life. Day in and day out I show up to class knowing I'm an infant, a rookie, an amoeba with very few tools and even far less understanding how to use them. I've been choked out by a 24 year old girl and tied in a pretzel by a 15 year old high school kid. Humbling. Humility in business is essential and it doesn't mean you're not confident just humble. In class we all see the black belts and they've put in their 10+ years to master the sport but most will even say they still learn something all the time. In business we should approach the day the same way. We can all learn something from every meeting, phone call or presentation. We can take a gem away here and there to help ourselves improve. Stay open minded and stay humble.

Lastly, if you can avoid the fight you should. Always try to defuse a situation but know that if you have to fight you have the skills to dominate. This can be applied to interpersonal relationships at work or negotiations. You don't need to fight but if it comes to it you are ready and you'll be precise with all your movements to ultimately win.

A few other concepts from JJ which have lasting affects day in and day out at work are focus, strength application and respect. We have to focus intently in class watching every degree of movement, body position and instruction. Practicing focus in class has helped me focus on work and not be distracted by external factors. Application of strength is a big part actually. You can't use 100% full strength when you're sparring with your partner. You have to dose out the amount of force appropriately just as in work. If you put all your attention at work on one thing you could lose in other areas. Have an issue with a co worker? You want to dose out how you speak to them or discipline them. You don't always need to use a sledgehammer! And finally, respect. We bow when we enter on the mat and when we leave the mat. We bow to our professor and sparring partner before and after each session. This is one of the things I most love about JJ since respect for others has diminished in our society. I believe showing respect to co workers at all levels is crucial to seeing success. And yes, even to the one's you might not be fond of.

It took me fifty years to find JJ and I've enjoyed taking some of these principles from the mat to the office. I encourage you to go try a class sometime. Do it.

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