Growing up, I was always a really small kid. Like, really small. I was the shortest and skinniest kid in my highschool until I hit a growth spurt in grade 11 – or Junior year, for you Americans. Before that, I was 5’2, and weighed about 100 lbs (that’s probably being generous).
Maybe as a consequence of always being small and weak, I was pretty insecure about myself. I’ve never really been in a full-on street fight, and the idea of fighting scared the crap out of me. Even after I put on some height, I was a weak, skinny guy, and it never occurred to me that people like me could defend themselves in a fight. That is, until I saw a replay of UFC 1 on TV.
I actually missed most of the UFC 1 replay. I just happened to change the channel in time to see a semi-final match in an 8-man tournament.
One of the fighters was some skinny Brazilian guy named Royce Gracie, apparently a practitioner of some weird martial art called Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:
Now, let’s check out his opponent. Folks, meet Ken Shamrock, the self-proclaimed “World’s Most Dangerous Man.”
I remember feeling a lump in my throat as I watched the two fighters standing across the cage from each other – yeah, did I mention they were fighting in a freakin’ cage!? I stared at the TV in horror (and admittedly, sick curiosity), waiting for the juiced-up steroid monster to smash the skinny guy into oblivion.
Royce Gracie choked out Ken Shamrock.
This wasn’t the pre-scripted, professional wrestling garbage I was accustomed to seeing on TV. This was a real fight.
From then on, I began watching more and more UFC events, always with a fascination for submission victories – there was something about small fighters being able to choke out larger fighters, simply through the use of leverage and technique, that resonated with me.
After a few more years, I finally signed up for my first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class, and I’ve been doing it ever since. In the 3 years I’ve been training, the biggest change I’ve noticed is my level of confidence, both on and off the mats. I no longer worry about physical confrontation, and strangely, I feel much more confident in my ability to diffuse those situations before they would ever get to that point. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu builds strength, coordination, and technical understanding of self-defense principles. But most importantly, it builds confidence.