"It's not the best, it's who's left"

One of the best lessons that I have gleaned from Brazilian jiu jitsu is captured by a phrase.

"It's not about who's the best, it's who's left."

This phrase refers to the massive drop-out rate in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Jiu jitsu is a notoriously demotivating sport. It is very complex and physically punishing. The majority of practitioners drop out before even receiving the first rank, which is typically granted after between 1.5 - 2 years of consistent training.*

The reasons for the drop-out rate are complex. Injuries are common. Life moves fast and hobbies are harder to maintain the older we get. By the time you reach the upper ranks of jiu jitsu, the practitioners aren't necessarily the most talented, they're just the ones that didn't drop out, get seriously injured, or otherwise quit practicing.

This suggests the importance of willpower more than innate talent or ability, as well as a humble attitude that allows one to pace oneself. Overtraining leads to injuries, which can cut a career short. Someone who trains less intensely may last longer, and thus extend their total training time.

I think that this rule applies not just to jiu jitsu, but professional careers and many other activities as well. The best programmers, writers, etc. are not necessarily those with the most in-born talent, but rather those who stubbornly refuse to quit in the face of difficult challenges, even when that means backing off an ambitious short-term goal for the sake of long-term growth.

It is a simple fact that people today are less tolerant of challenges than people in the past. Our climate-controlled lives and Netflix subscriptions make us accustomed to convenience and comfort. We expect things to be easy, and if they are not, our egos feel wounded. 

Jiu jitsu is a tradition from another way. An older way. 

Note that it took me nearly three years to earn that first rank, in case there is any suspicion that I am flattering myself.

You'll only receive email when they publish something new.

More from rq
All posts