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What Money and Martial Arts Have in Common


Success in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (or any martial art) has a direct correlation on how we get good at anything.  As anyone who has devoted their life to it will tell you, we see the world through our experiences on the mat.  In many ways, I barely remember who I was before I began my training.  Our view of money is no exception to this frame of mind.  Though seemingly opposite topics, many similarities are present.

It’s a Journey

Your journey with money shouldn’t be compared to those around you.  Keeping up with Jones’ is what gets most people in trouble.  One of the best parts of Jiu-Jitsu is that you can’t lie on the mats.  Well, you can lie for a bit but you’ll be found out quickly.  The same goes with money, you can pretend to be a “Black Belt” by maxing out your credit card but soon enough, those creditors will come knocking if you’re living above your means.  


One of the most important factors in Jiu-Jitsu is weight distribution.  Lean too far one way and your dominant position can easily be reversed.  While you may survive an occasional splurge on a vacation or a new pair of shoes, overdoing it will put you in real financial danger.  Most personal finance experts warn of credit card use, though a balanced approach can be beneficial.  You can earn points and get cash back, airline miles, or other perks.  Debt management will test your discipline, which is one of the more obvious benefits martial arts teach us.

Problem Solving

Grappling is the ultimate problem solving experiment.  Recognizing whether your problem is catastrophic rather than manageable will be imperative.  If it’s manageable, it’s up to you to figure a way out.  Whether with money or on the mats, we must be privy to the principles of escaping and surviving any situation. Ideally, this should be the first concept you learn on your journey.  It’s hard to practice every conceivable position you may get into, which means we will have to come up with solutions on the spot.  This can be challenging but as martial arts teaches us, we must be comfortable with being uncomfortable.      


When the average person runs into a problem they either quit or avoid it.  Normally, it’s coupled with an excuse to justify their decision.  Sometimes people start making excuses for their failure before they actually fail.  I’ve been guilty of this before, my time in Jiu-Jitsu helped me identify this problem and fix it.  Rather than being a host for that toxic mentality, it’s better to commit to something fully knowing you’ll have to make adjustments at some point.  Don’t quit, identify what needs to change and execute.  As the great Rickson Gracie said and I paraphrase, it’s okay to stop doing something if it’s not for you but it’s not okay to quit because you don’t believe you can do something.  All of this can apply to our financial goals and strategies.  

You Are Never Out Of The Fight

The movie “Lone Survivor” tells the tragic and amazing story of Marcus Luttrell and his troops.  Never being out of a fight was a running theme throughout the film.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re facing bankruptcy or in a bad position in a fight, we must never give up.  If we don’t push ourselves to our limits, we’ll never know what we are capable of.  By tapping into this mental state, I’ve many times surprised myself with an escape or reversal while being close to failure.  Many Jiu-Jitsu practitioners or people in financial distress have countless stories of similar experiences.  Remember, leave in all on the mat!

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Eric Estevez
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