The Most Important Concept in Jiu Jitsu

The most important concept —  in Jiu Jitsu and in life — is to believe in yourself. To believe that you can do what you want to do, that you are capable and learn well, and that you can improve quickly and be successful. Staying optimistic and believing that your work will pay off is the surest path to success. 

Zenyo Jiu Jitsu Baltimore Training

As You Think, So You Become

Philosophers, poets, and priests have espoused the power of positive thought for thousands of years. Epictetus, a Stoic Greek philosopher, is famous for the quote, “As you think, so you become.” Now science is able to study how our thoughts influence the structure of our brains, and influence the world we live in. 

Harvard psychologist Shawn Achor writes about the science behind success in a great book — The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work. His research discovered that happiness creates success, not the other way around. The biggest predictor he found for happiness is our belief system. 

If we believe good things will happen to us, they are more likely to happen. If we are optimistic and believe that we will succeed at Jiu Jitsu, or any other pursuit, we will greatly increase our chances just by our belief. 


The more your brain picks up on the positive, the more you will expect this trend to continue, and so the more optimistic you will be. And optimism, it turns out is a tremendously powerful predictor of performance.

– Shawn Achor

Creating Your Reality

Our thoughts are our reality. We see the things we want. The more optimistic we are and the more we believe that good things are likely to happen to us, the more they actually do happen. 

“Studies have shown that optimists set more goals (and more difficult goals) than pessimists, and put more effort into attaining those goals, stay more engaged in the face of difficulty, and rise above obstacles more easily. Optimists also cope better in high stress situations and are better able to maintain high levels of well-being during times of hardship,” Achor writes. 

In The Happiness Advantage, Achor details a study where participants were selected on the basis of whether they considered themselves lucky or unlucky. They were given a task to complete—read a newspaper and count the number of photos in it. The group that identified themselves as unlucky took almost two minutes to complete the task; the group that self-identified as lucky took two seconds. In those couple of seconds, the lucky group also grew $250 richer, while the unlucky group won nothing. 

How did this happen? 

Inside the newspaper were two very large messages. One read, “Stop counting, there are 43 photos in this newspaper.” The other read, “Stop counting, tell the experimenter you have seen this and win $250.” 

Those who considered themselves unlucky never saw the messages. The groups’ different beliefs created different realities. 

Those who believed good things would happen, had good things happen. Those who did not believe, did not have the same experience, even though they were presented with the exact same circumstances. 


Practice, Practice, Practice

Training your brain to believe that you can create your reality is called predictive encoding. “Priming yourself to expect a favorable outcome actually encodes your brain to recognize the outcome when it does in fact arise,” Achor writes. 

This is the secret to success: belief. This is the most important concept for creating success in life. 

Not “I think I can,” but “I know I can.” 

The great news is that we can train and improve our thoughts and beliefs. The brain is always capable not just of learning but of changing throughout the entirety of life. Scientists call this “neuroplasticity” — the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections. 

“Just as our brains can be wired in ways that hold us back, we can retrain them to scan for the good things in life — to help us see more possibility, to feel more energy, and to succeed at higher levels,” writes Achor.

At Zenyo Jiu Jitsu, we teach that every single thing we do in life is a skill — and all skills are learned through practice. Change is possible, growth is possible, success is possible. 

You just have to believe in yourself.

How To

DAILY THANK YOU: Creating a positive belief system takes daily practice. One way to do this is to create daily “Thank You” times. Before bed and when you wake up, take a moment to note the things you are thankful for. 

GRATITUDE LIST: You can also create a daily gratitude list to write down the things you are grateful for. 

Some might think these things are silly (like I did in the past), but they are powerful tools to rewire your brain to scan the world through a positive perspective. When you do this, you will start to see positive things everywhere you look. 

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Zenyo Jiu Jitsu

Zenyo Jiu Jitsu is the premier Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy in Baltimore, Maryland. Zenyo is run by John David Emmett, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with more than 20 years experience.

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