BJJ Puts Me In The Moment Like Nothing Else

BJJX Student Blog

Matthew Cowell used to meditate but found his attention wandering. There’s no chance of that in BJJ, though, when your opponent is trying to choke you, he says.

Life is really confusing. We have so much going on these days – jobs, education, friendships, relationships, healthy living, social media, whether you remembered to turn the oven off before going out – it’s no wonder that so many of us find ourselves thinking about the past and the future, unable to really be in the present. I used to be a reasonably committed adherent of Buddhism and had a pretty regular meditation practice, but I always struggled with being able to really move my attention to the now (not to say that meditation isn’t a wonderful practice, one that I should really get back to!) and not get distracted. My will just wasn’t in it 100 per cent, even though I knew that meditation did my mental health a great amount of good.

Matt (centre) at the English Open last month, at which he won his first fight.

What does this have to do with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? Whereas, when I practised mindfulness, I had to really concentrate to bring my mind to the present, in Jiu-Jitsu it’s dragged kicking and screaming there. If you aren’t concentrating when you’re rolling with someone, chances are you’re about to get beaten. There’s no time to think about that embarrassing thing you said three years ago at that party, or the awkward date you had the other day, or how bad you feel about not having called your mum for a few days (though you should probably do that). All that you have time to focus on is your opponent: where are their posts? Can you break their posture down? Alright, shoot for that overhook and then – Oh shit, they’ve opened your guard. What now? Get your grips and set up an open guard, start to think about sweeps, foot in the hip . . . Fuck me, that pass was quick. Frame, frame, frame. Don’t panic, breathe. Move your hips out. Block the transition to mount and get your knee in, extend through your shoulder; back to guard.

What are you gonna do from here? Ooooh, their arm is a bit out of position; could be something there. Grab that sleeve grip, throw it up and get your leg through. Yes! Lift your hips, calf across their neck, lock off the triangle, yank their arm across and—

Beep! Beep! Beep!

Damn, was that five minutes already? It always goes so quickly.

You shake hands with your opponent, thanking them for a good roll, get up and get a quick drink of water, breathing heavily, sweating profusely and grinning from ear to ear.

Life is really confusing, and that’s why I love Jiu-Jitsu. It simplifies life down to its core elements: competition, cooperation, exertion, achievement, family. For a few hours every week, I’m in the moment; everything makes sense.

The everyday is full of distractions and complications, and sometimes it’s really hard to know where you’re going or if you’re making the right choices. But on the mat, there’s no room for doubt or second-guessing.

Slap. Bump. Let’s go!

Matthew Cowell is 19, and hails from Thanet. He’s been training at Brighton BJJX for a year, and he’s studying Philosophy, Politics and Ethics at the University of Brighton. Click here for information about our classes.



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