Should I Give Up Everything to be a BJJ Athlete?

On Budo Jake’s new Youtube.com channel, he recently posted a video addressing a question from Fabio, an Italian BJJ practitioner from Italy. Fabio, who works in marketing and sales, is pondering giving up his passionless job and moving to the United States with his family to work and train in BJJ. Budo Jake related to Fabio since he also worked in a job her didn’t care for before deciding to move to Japan to train and experience life.

Jake layouts several realities of making such a radical change by pointing out that Fabio has a family, the lack of money and jobs in BJJ, and losing passion for BJJ once you start working in it full-time. He did suggest finding a job in the United States that is close to a the gym he would like to join and would work around his schedule. There is a challenge though to getting a work visa which involves a lot of paperwork and several thousands of dollars to obtain.

While Fabio’s situation is challenging due to his family responsibilities and the difficulties of getting a work visa in the United States, it is still a viable option for younger athletes with little responsibilities or financial debt. There are many realities and hardships to making the leap that Jake mentions in the video that we often don’t see or realize. When we watch Black Belts at Worlds or in super fights, we usually see the finished product and not the years of grinding and financial hardships that is common for a sport where funds and options are limited.

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There is a Black Belt from Norway that visits our gym several times a year. He owns his own successful BJJ/MMA gym in his home country and traveled the world to train and compete. Once after training I said to him “Man, you have the life.” He responded “You should have seen me for the 10 years when I had nothing.”

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I have known people who have been able to make a living in BJJ while training full-time. It is not an easy or glamorous life for any of them, but it is a very fulfilling life. Here are there examples of people I have met who have made a life out of BJJ.

Blue Belt Competitor, Owns BJJ Apparel Company: One of my teammates was once a rising pharmaceutical advertising executive in New York City. She relocated to Los Angeles to train full-time and work on her women’s grappling apparel company.  In addition to training twice a day and working on her apparel startup, she also consults for a B2B social media agency. Her weekdays start at 5 AM when she wakes up and starts working from home on her consulting gig and her apparel company. She works until 11 AM and then heads out to train at noon. After wrapping up training at 2 PM, she then works until 5 or 6 PM and then goes to her second training session until 8 or 9 PM. Her apparel company has gotten many positive reviews for its design and performance and she finished 2nd at the Mundials and 1st at American Nationals.

Purple Belt, Freelance Social Media and Internet Developer: The second example is a Purple Belt World Champion who gave up a full-time corporate gig to enable himself to train twice a day and work as a social media and internet developer/consultant. He also, wakes up early and works before his 9 AM training session. He then returns homes and works on his projects which includes managing his academy’s website, advertising, and social media until his second training session. After training, he then returns home and works well into the evening writing code, running optimization tests for his web projects, and communicating with clients and partners in addition to spending time with his family.

Black Belt, Full Time Coach: Coaching at a large school mean teaching up to 15 classes a week in addition to training twice a day that includes drilling, rolling and strength and conditioning. In between teaching and training, he does administrative work, mans the front desk, and teaches private classes throughout the day. His week day work day typically starts at 10 AM and ends at 10 PM with some breaks in-between. His only day off is Sunday when he catches up on errands and house choirs. After a recent Saturday training session, he mentioned to me how broken down his body feels after all of the time on the mats spent teaching and training six days a week.

The common theme is that all three of these people still have very long days, work hard, and are very disciplined. The three examples also have college degrees to fall back on. They have been able to build a lifestyle where they are able to train full-time, but their opportunities to train multiple times a day doesn’t make their days any easier or absolve them from life’s responsibilities. In addition to their work ethics, all three are very athletic and have a natural talent for BJJ that matches their mental aptitude and dedication to the sport.

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Making a life around BJJ can be done, but it doesn’t make life easier or carefree. Like anything worth having in life it still requires a lot of hard work and long days. Building a life around BJJ can be achieved, but it take a great deal of effort that is fueled by passion and sacrifice.

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