“A grappler is the toughest man on the planet” – Conan Silveira, my first jiujitsu coach.
I remember Conan saying those words during a practice. It echoed the words of my childhood wrestling coaches. It never really clicked until I was a little older, and could recognize the difference between grapplers, and those that had no grappling experience. It’s hard to define. I think grapplers, (whether they train in Wrestling, Judo, Sambo, JiuJitsu, or the thousands of forms of grappling that are unique to each culture), have at some point accepted that they do it for the love. There is never really going to be a lot of money in grappling. Wrestling programs have been, and are being, cancelled on a regular basis all over the USA. Kids that wrestle have always known there is no money to chase. No one is offering million dollar contracts like we see in the NBA, MLB, or NFL. Sometimes there isn’t even bragging rights or external glory. Grapplers are simply tougher. Mentally, physically, and emotionally. It’s a result of the daily grind. You don’t start out thinking you’re going to be tough. You usually start out wondering if you can do any of this. After a few years you start wondering what you can’t do.
For grapplers the struggle is the glory. You know you endure more on a daily basis than most folks will endure in a year, if not a lifetime. That’s what makes you different. You are a better version of you because of the struggle. You are not like other people because you know how this works. You’ve already figured out years ago on the mat. That life is improved by almost imperceptible movement, and unrecognized effort. The mental toughness you now have is because you learned long ago to suck it up and drive on. The struggle, and the subsequent benefits of that struggle is the glory. You get to live a better life than you would have otherwise.
It’s not just the grapplers that know they’re a breed apart. Thanks to a Gallup study commissioned by the Navy to the tune of $500,000 the Military knows what we already knew. Grapplers are tougher. Men trying out for the elite Navy SEALs doubled their odds of passing the selection process if they had participated in one of these 7 sports; water polo, triathlon, lacrosse, boxing, rugby, swimming and/or wrestling. Not football, basketball, or baseball. Nope. However, there are two core combat sports in there; boxing and wrestling. Next post we’ll get into grapplers that can bang. That’s a whole other beast right there, and one all multidisciplinary athletes should be working towards. For now I’ll close this out with this; Conan was right, as were all of my wrestling coaches. Grapplers are the toughest people on the planet. The skills we build relentlessly pursuing higher performance on the mat, in the end makes us better people off the mat setting us up for success in every other area of our life.