TMC Athletes: The Juice is Always Worth the Squeeze

Bryan Richter, lead behavioral health tech

Snapshot

I have been practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for almost six years and have attained the rank of purple belt. I compete three or more times yearly and won the state championship in 2009, placed second in 2010 and third in 2011. I am currently training for October’s Masters and Seniors World Championships in Long Beach, Calif.

How did you get started?

I started training jiu jitsu after developing an interest in the discipline through Ultimate Fighting Championship and at the suggestion of my wife. Thank goodness that I did because it has sparked a passion and a purpose in me that I would’ve never had otherwise.

What is jiu jitsu?

It is a grappling art – with roots in Judo – a system of take downs and ground fighting based on position and leverage, as well as submission techniques that enable smaller opponents to defeat much bigger ones without any strikes. Jiu jitsu employs a variety of chokes, and attacks to the joints: wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees and ankles to gain submissions from your opponents via a “tap out.”

What are the challenges?

Conditioning is an extremely important factor as well. I am in the best shape of my life at 41. It takes a long time to earn belts; most people quit before ever receiving their first promotion. It took me longer to get my purple belt in jiu jitsu than to earn two previous black belts. The ranking system is as follows; white belt, blue belt, purple belt, brown belt and black belt. It generally takes over a decade to earn a black belt, often longer.

Training sessions are grueling, and unlike other disciplines, you have to fight every day at the end of class. This is how you “prove” your skill set and earn your promotions. Jiu jitsu is the only martial arts discipline that affords its practitioners the ability to win fights off of their backs as well as from dominant positions and is therefore an extremely effective self-defense system, particularly for women. It is also the only discipline that allows you, according to your skill set, to determine the amount of suffering you impose on your opponent.

Bryan Richter, left, after jumping guard sets up a take down of his opponent during a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu match.

Why do you do it?

My training has led me to a better understanding of myself and life in general. Jiu jitsu is not a hobby. It is a lifestyle, a way of being that encompasses diet, fitness and mindset. It shapes or reshapes your life and molds you into a better person. It transcends the mats and permeates everything in your life, always for the better.

It has changed my life immensely in almost every way. I do not think I would have been complete without it. It has simultaneously been the most difficult and most rewarding thing I have ever done, and it continues to inspire and amaze me with its vastness and potential.

There are infinite mysteries within what the Brazilians call arte suave, or the gentle way. I fear one lifetime isn’t enough to properly explore it. The grandmaster and developer of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Helio Gracie, when asked at age 90 what he had left to accomplish in life replied “I still need to perfect my Jiu Jitsu technique.” I think that says it all. Though I have often been injured (training with three broken toes right now) and have had to come back from three surgeries during my six years, the juice is always worth the squeeze. Everyone should do this.

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