The Boardroom’s Secret Weapon: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

By Spencer Hulse Spencer Hulse has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on November 15, 2023

A growing trend is emerging among business executives and celebrities, and it’s got nothing to do with creating strategies, sales projections, making the talk show circuit to promote their current project, or developing what’s in the R&D pipeline. In fact, this trend is most decidedly un-corporate and designed to help those who follow it become more creative and spontaneous in everything they do. 

It involves a mat, a gi, grit, determination, discipline, and a whole lot of sweat. And while it does involve a strategy, often it’s about responding to an opponent’s moves more than trying to plan for every possible outcome. It is the martial arts practice of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and while its arrival created a storm among martial arts enthusiasts a few decades back, it is now taking the corporate boardroom by storm in 2023. 

Developed by Brazilian brothers Carlos, Oswaldo, Gastão Jr., O’Brien, and Hélio Gracie in 1925, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is characterized by its submission holds, ground fighting, and method of self-defense that emphasizes bringing one’s opponent to the mat, ensuring control from a dominant position. Over time, BJJ has gained in popularity and garnered respect in the martial arts world as people have come to realize how formidable and effective it actually is. And the fact that its lessons can translate so nicely to other territories — like into the corporate boardroom, for example — is boosting recognition of its merits even further. 

The Origins of Jiu-Jitsu

The roots of BJJ can be traced back to the Japanese martial arts of Jujutsu and its modernized “cousin,” Judo. Jujutsu was a comprehensive system developed by the samurai to defend themselves when they weren’t armed with swords. It included techniques for throws, joint locks, and submissions. In the late 19th century, Jigoro Kano synthesized these techniques into a new system called Judo, emphasizing leverage and technique over brute strength.

The Gracie Family, Carlos Gracie, and the Arrival of Jiu-Jitsu to the Rest of the World

Jujutsu made its way to Brazil at the beginning of the previous century, primarily through the efforts of Mitsuyo Maeda, a top student of Jigoro Kano. Maeda settled in Brazil and began teaching what at the time was perceived as a revolutionary and uniquely empowering alteration of traditional martial arts practice.

Among Mitsuyo Maeda’s students were Carlos Gracie and some of his brothers. Carlos later passed his knowledge to his younger brother, Helio Gracie, who adapted the techniques to accommodate his smaller stature and lower level of physical strength.

The global breakout of BJJ came in the early 1990s with the founding of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) organization in the United States. At the very first UFC championships, Royce Gracie stunned the world when he used BJJ techniques to defeat the legendary Ken Shamrock, a future UFC Hall of Famer and WWE champion. Royce accomplished this feat despite being much smaller than the formidable Shamrock, and his success demonstrated how potent the techniques of BJJ could be in any competition.

Today, BJJ is practiced worldwide for self-defense and sports competitions and as a component of mixed martial arts (MMA). Various schools and philosophies have emerged, but the core principles remain the same. Namely, that leverage, technique, and strategy can conquer brute force. Tournaments and competitions are held globally, and its techniques are continually evolving thanks to the innovations of trained BJJ experts.

From its roots in Japanese martial arts to its transformation in Brazil and global explosion, BJJ has proven itself to be a versatile, effective, and ever-evolving martial art. Whether it’s in the octagon, on the mats, or even in boardrooms, BJJ continues to make its influence felt.

Professor Roy Dean: A Mentor for CEOs and Entrepreneurs

Meet Professor Roy Dean, a fourth-degree Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a prominent figure in the martial arts world. His YouTube videos have inspired countless enthusiasts, and his instructional materials have demystified the art of BJJ for students across the globe.

In addition to being one of the world’s foremost experts in BJJ, Dean is also a recognized master in other martial arts: he holds black belts in Kodokan Judo, Aikikai Aikido, and Japanese Jujutsu. Under the mentorship of Roy Harris (6th dan), he’s recognized by the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) and has affiliated academies that apply his methods of instruction on virtually every continent (save for Antarctica, of course).

These days, Roy Dean is a busy man. Dean’s adventures and insights are encapsulated in his enthralling books, The Martial Apprentice and Becoming the Black Belt — both of which are set for re-release in second editions with all-new material in December 2023. Collaborating with Aikido Journal, he’s been delving into the defining principles of the Art of Peace, capturing its masters in their prime. His recent documentary on jiu-jitsu maestro Jeff Glover has premiered at various film festivals throughout 2022 and 2023, provoking an enthusiastic reception at every venue. 

For Roy Dean, teaching others how to perform the techniques of BJJ isn’t just a profession but a distinct pleasure and a lifelong mission. He takes great pride in the success of his efforts to introduce this energizing and revolutionary practice to corporate boardrooms, where executives of all sizes, ages, backgrounds, and temperaments are learning how the lessons of BJJ can be applied to their lives.

Yes, it’s true: all across the globe, CEOs and other executives are taking to the mats and learning BJJ and enjoying the experience immensely. 

This might come as a surprise to many. After all, BJJ is a full-contact sport known for its grueling techniques and intense sparring sessions. At first consideration, this wouldn’t seem to have much application to the corporate environment. But in reality, BJJ offers a plethora of benefits that directly translate to the boardroom. 

More than just a martial art, BJJ is a life-altering practice that offers a unique combination of physical, psychological, and emotional health benefits, instilling discipline, promoting maturity, and sharpening time management skills.

Rolling on the mats teaches practitioners to prioritize what’s truly important, especially when stuck in a tough position. It challenges one’s decision-making abilities under pressure, encourages viewing situations from multiple perspectives, and fosters humility. Moreover, practitioners often find themselves more approachable and relatable after taking up the sport. 

Surprisingly, despite its intensity, BJJ is adaptable enough that even those with physical limitations, such as individuals with multiple sclerosis or Rheumatoid Arthritis, can participate and thrive.

Several executives have spoken publicly about their passion for BJJ. For instance, although not students of Professor Dean’s, both Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk have been bitten by the BJJ bug.

For executives looking to redefine their fitness regimen and acquire skills beneficial in the corporate sphere, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu presents a compelling case. And there’s perhaps no one better equipped to guide them on this journey than Professor Roy Dean. With his vast experience, deep knowledge, and passion for teaching, he’s the perfect instructor to empower executives, both on the mats and in the workplace, where the competition is fierce and the demands of the job even fiercer. 

If you’re looking for inspiration that can help you develop some fresh new boardroom strategy, you just might find it on the BJJ mats. Roy Dean knows all about the transformative power of this incredible practice, and CEOs across the world are now discovering the very same thing.

By Spencer Hulse Spencer Hulse has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Spencer Hulse is the Editorial Director at Grit Daily. He is responsible for overseeing other editors and writers, day-to-day operations, and covering breaking news.

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