Okay, let me get this out of the way. I’ve always been one of the first ones to roll my eyes when I hear someone say jiujitsu saved their life. So I fully expect the eye rolls I deserve for saying; jiujitsu has saved my life.

Well, maybe it didn’t save my life however, it did give me tools to save or at least improve myself. One of those tools is a mental state that says things always change so never quit working toward improving your position. Heraclitus said, “The only thing that is constant is change…” and that is the nature of the world we live in. Whether it’s gravity pulling us downward, circumstances setting us back, or the guy walking slowly in the hallway ahead of us, whether it’s intentional or not there is usually something working against us.

One of the things we learn early on in jiujitsu is to never stop working to improve position. Regardless of how bad or good my position might be I can always work to improve it. The lesson we learn is to never rest on our laurels nor should we accept defeat. We can always try to find ways to incrementally work to improve our position. Settling or sitting still is not an option. Even when we think we’re just sitting still, our opponent is moving or life is moving, and we’re losing ground. We’ve got to keep moving. Even if it’s only tiny movements because enough tiny movements chain together to create space to improve our position.

Having said that, we also learn in jiujitsu there are times we build a frame and rest. As Coach Travis Davison, SBGi VP, likes to say, “A bridge doesn’t push upwards. It doesn’t have to because it’s designed to resist downward pressure as is. It doesn’t need to do anything else. That’s what structure and framing in jiujitsu is…” Sometimes we learn to put together a frame or structure that gives us a chance to take a breath, get our head together, and start over.

Quite a few years ago I was talking to my oldest daughter, and I told her that life always gets better. Things change, and within change is chaos, out of chaos comes opportunity. Which is something I read by Terence McKenna in an old book titled Trialogues at the Edge of the West. I realized that while this is something I read in various forms from a variety of sources, I actually learned it experientially on the mat, day in and day out working to improve my position and never allowing myself to settle.

Obviously there will be times in our lives where continuing to work to improve our position is an exercise in futility. There will be times when the best answer is to bail on a bad position or plan of attack, and start over. I’ve heard it said a thousand times in as many contexts from relationships to investments. However, I’ve really learned this on the mat. Nothing is so good or so bad that I can’t bail, start over, and fight my way back to an even better position. We learn to absolutely believe in our ability to make something happen.

So what happens when we get caught? When we can’t improve our position?When we have to tap out or pass out? We learn to ruthlessly assess our mistakes, as well as the things we did right, get ourselves together, and go again.