I stepped onto the mats to teach a Jr Grapplers Bullyproof class (ages 8 to 14) and just before class started I saw two students standing next to each other. One of them was struggling to put on his belt; without hesitation the other student said to him, ‘I’ll help you’ and he proceeded to tie his friend’s belt. Seeing that interaction brought a smile to my face and I thought – yes, it’s all about teamwork.

It’s easy to get caught in the idea that jiu-jitsu is an individual practice. Even though we have a partner to drill our techniques, in the end our development is our own. We step off the mats with our own thoughts, our own reflections of our experiences. We won’t progress unless we each show up and put in the time and effort. Despite this individual element, beyond the technique my jiu-jitsu practice has taught me a lot about teamwork.

I wrote before about how having an ego can get in the way of your progress and practice. Not appreciating and understanding the value of your teammates can do the same. People step onto the mats from all walks of life – they bring with them different experiences, new perspectives, along with the anxiety that many, many practitioners feel (regardless of how many years of experience they have under their belts). When you put on your gi (or train no gi), tie your belt, and show up to train you become part of the team; you become part of a family.

You see evidence of teamwork when you’re struggling with a technique and your teammates help you out – not just by showing you the technique again but also working with you to help you execute the move. Being able to connect with others and work together to decipher moves and help each other enhance their game is what jiu-jitsu teamwork is all about. Working together allows you to appreciate everyone’s strengths – it also helps you bring out your own.

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working together to decipher a submission

When you’re sparring, even though you are grappling ‘against’ each other, you’re also working together – you are conscious of their safety. This doesn’t mean that you ‘go easy’, but recognizing that you’re all part of the same team ensures you spar in a way that is challenging for both of you but also considerate. You drive each other to dig deep and do your best – and once you disconnect and slap hands, the camaraderie continues. Acknowledging teamwork also makes it easier to check your attitude. When we realize that we work for the betterment of each other, it takes the sting of tapping away – we spar, we tap, we roll on.

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she may be trying to choke me, but we’re all on the same team

It is also through teamwork that you realize you’re not alone on this journey. Jiu-jitsu is challenging. It forces us to confront our insecurities and pushes our mental and physical boundaries. Knowing that there are others who are going through these trials, just like you, is comforting. You build connections near and far as you are united by this amazing practice of jiu-jitsu. While my current home team is Watford, my complete jiu-jitsu team is worldwide.

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part of my international jiu-jitsu family – USA, Canada, England represented

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together D & I make a great team – on and off the mats 🙂

Links to other posts in this series:

Beyond the Technique: Focus

Beyond the Technique: Discipline

Beyond the Technique: Patience

Beyond the Technique: Confidence

Beyond the Technique: Ownership 

Beyond the Technique: Losing your Ego