Fellow Magic players,
Are you sick of sitting in a chair the whole day? You'd love to get some exercise, but you hate running, cycling or going to the gym?
In this video, I'm going to explain why Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the perfect sport for the gamer in you.
The idea of Jiu-Jitsu is for people of lesser strength to fight where brute force and weight difference matter less: on the ground. By closing the distance, strikes won't knock you out and by using techniques of leverage to compensate for the difference of weight and strength, you can end up in a winning position hopefully leading to a submission.
While strikes aren't allowed, choking and attacking your opponent's joints is totally fair game. Attacks like:
-Rear Naked Chokes
-Bow and Arrow chokes
-Arm bar from the guard
-Arm bar from the mount
And a bunch of other stuff, which will not necessarily be painful since you will tap before pain actually occurs.
So, what does it have to do with Magic? Glad you asked!
Last summer, before French nationals, I invited Magic players to come and try it out. A few answered the call. Among them: Hall of Famer Gabriel Nassif, Pro Tour winners Pierre Canali and Remi Fortier, and recent GP finalist Julien Berteau.
BJJ is often compared to "human chess". There are moves to counter their attacks and to counter-attack and so on. To me, BJJ is more like Magic than chess.
A fight will happen mostly on the ground and both fighters will actively look for a submission. You can get points by improving your position, with a sweep or a reversal, or by taking the mount of the back, but in the end, if you opponent taps out, you win whatever the score is.
There's a game for everyone, whether you're a submission artist, or a sweep maniac. Much like Magic, you can play control, and wait for your opponent to make a mistake to tire them out to make a finishing move, or aggro as you try to pass your opponent's guard to put your pressure on them.
The techniques you learn are the cards in your deck. Your body is like your manabase. In the course of a year, two years, or however long you train, you'll see countless techniques. It turns out some of them are just not for you. Maybe you're not flexible enough, maybe they don't match your overall strategy. Your manabase just won't cast these spells. But the more you train, the more your body will adapt and the more dual lands you'll be collecting dual lands along the way.
The strategy aspect is huge. Keep in mind that you can win a fight even when you've been dominated the whole time. Think of it as comboing off your when you're dead on board and you draw the final piece of your combo.
I practiced a few other sports before settling for BJJ, and one of the things that made me come back is the visible progression. Unlike many other opposition sports, you can go at a 100% at training, not that you will go at a 100% every time, but it's an option. In boxing or any other sports involving striking, it's not safe to go at a 100%. I was mentioning "opponents" to describe the interactions, but the people you're training with are your partners. You don't want them to be injured, and you don't want to be injured either. If you don't have the option to give a 100% of what you have, you can't really test yourself.
By giving the 100%, you'll know where you're at. Sure, at the beginning, you will get your ass kicked. A lot. Again and again and again. Try playing a competitive Standard Magic tournament with your sealed deck—that will be about the same thing. But you'll improve, you'll test yourself, you'll understand that your body is a lot stronger than you think it is. Under pressure (actual weight pressure on your chest or your face), even though you'll feel discomfort and you'll want to tap, it's not actually painful, whatever your brain tries to tell you.
Then you'll start understanding your body, how it works, what actually hurts and what doesn't. You'll spend hours studying which moves you have to add to your game, trying to find new ones and which strategy works best for you. You'll start taping out less, defend better. You'll even start taping out opponents, smaller in size, then bigger in size, thanks to your new spells and improved manabase. The sense of accomplishment that follows is equal to none. Overcoming opposition is usually what drives competitive Magic players.
Jiu-Jitsu is not only an amazing sport, it's also full of amazing people. Just like Magic, the BJJ community is one of the most welcoming you'll find. Wherever you go, you'll always find a gym to train and meet new friends. I've trained pretty much everywhere in the world, and you want to know the most awesome part? Magic players also train (why wouldn't they?) I've been invited by Magic players to train in Sweden, Poland, Australia. Funny story, on my trophy shot of GP Austin 2012, I'm wearing a Jiu-Jitsu Shirt. That's how Brad noticed I was training and invited me to a training session in Hawaii, where he also plays Magic.
So when I have time, I try to bring my Gi with me to have a couple of rolls before a tournament.
Before you say "I'm not in shape, I can't do that" or "I have to lose some weight first", there's no better workout than BJJ. You don't even need an athletic background to start. In just a couple of months, you'll be in shape, and you'll lose the weight if you need to, and feel better physically.
It's a tough, physical activity. It will take every last bit of energy you have. An sometimes you will come home with bruises and sometimes injuries, but the payoff is real.
If you're already training, I hope to meet you on the mat one day, if not, I hope I made you want to try it out, so I can meet you on the mat instead of across a table in a Magic tournament!