I found jiu jitsu purely by accident, and it was a complete shocker to both me and everyone who knew me. Prior to bjj, I had earned a black belt in Tivo and watched nearly 40 hours of television per week. Seriously, all those sci-fi shows are NOT going to watch themselves! I am 5’4” and when I walked in the door of my first jiu jitsu gym, I was 33 and weighed 205, which was down from 231. I had lost the weight purely through changing eating habits, but realized it was time to up my game by adding physical exercise. I decided on judo, which would give me external motivation due to peer pressure, social obligation, and set class times. Instead of taking me to a judo gym, however, my coworker sent me to a jiu jitsu gym. What the heck! It wasn’t even the same sport. It was some UFC competition, sweaty, testosterone-laden, male dominated thing!
Those who saw me my first week likely thought I would wash out quickly. I was uncomfortable, fat, had a difficult time moving, and 10 years older than nearly everyone. But I decided to commit to it and buy a gi and go. Then something completely crazy happened. I got completely addicted to bjj! I started blogging about it, joined forums, bought a bunch of gis, and went as often as I possibly could.
I credit jiu jitsu with a large portion of my health and weight loss. I found the positive peer pressure to be wonderfully motivating. I was moving my body, and for the first time I was around very health-conscious people. Shockingly, geeks are not known for their healthy lifestyles or eating habits. Between the people I met in person and online I learned so much more about healthier eating habits, and there was a constant push to get more mat time in. In short, I was a new immigrant in the land of healthy lifestyles, but I was ready to become a resident.
My goals in jiu jitsu were never to become a world champ, or even to be awesome, but instead to get my body moving. That meant that even though I was absolutely the worst in my gym, I was still winning because I was achieving my goals. My legs and body were so fat that I couldn’t close a triangle or do a forward roll. I still remember the first time I was able to do each of those. I had lost enough weight and size that all of a sudden my body could do these magical things – like move! And go upside down!
When I started jiu jitsu, at 205, I likened my body to a parked car. It was incredibly difficult to start moving, and it would consistently stall out. Three years later, I have progressed to the point where I’m 155, and my body is like a reliable family car that sometimes has difficulty getting up steep hills or starting when it’s cold outside. What an incredible upgrade. I’ll never be a Ferrari, but that’s totally okay by me – I was a parked car for more than 10 years. I’m hoping to upgrade to an older model Cadillac that is strong and consistent and will continue moving until the owner finally kicks the bucket. I owe so much to jiu jitsu, and I am thrilled to have discovered a wonderful addiction, family, and hobby at age 33.
About the author: Julia Johansen, aka Jiu Jiu, is a blue belt in jiu jitsu and a black belt in geekery. Since 2010 she has been doing jiu jitsu and yammering on about it on her blog at http://jiujiubjj.com It would tickle her pink if you visited her blog to say hello. Like Earth, she’s mostly harmless.