Grade 12 student Stefan D.’s experiences in jiu-jitsu taught him not only to see conflicts in his life from different perspectives, but also taught him self-discipline and skills such as balancing personal hobbies, school, and social life. Stefan talks about the struggle of balancing jiu-jitsu and school and the effect friends have had throughout the years.

What follows is Stefan’s story, in his own words

“After quitting swimming, I needed a kind of outlet or a sport that I needed to do to take up my time because I felt like I was missing sports a lot and did not know what to do. I could not just do school work, I needed something to balance it out, so I found a gym here in Bucharest and I decided to try out jiu-jitsu and ended up loving it. I then picked it up at a competition level.

I would say that one skill jiu-jitsu has helped me with in my own life is finding different angles to solutions. I struggled with being very set on whenever problems arose, stressing out not knowing what to do. While jiu-jitsu is a very thoughtful sport in the sense that you move like a puzzle and you have to find different solutions to whatever is presented to you. So I think that is something that I could extrapolate; so whenever stresses are happening in my life, especially in 12th grade being kind of a tough year in the IB, I think it has definitely helped me find a different angle to what would usually be the same problem.

Stefan, center, at a martial arts competition. (Submitted photo)

I remember I was getting injured every other day and it was tough because I was having some competitions coming up and I ended up having a sprained ankle, a dislocated thumb, and some other things going on. Usually it would have broken me down to the point where I felt like—okay, that’s it, I need to take a break for a bit and I just won’t go to the competitions and focus on school and all these things—and when I realized that there is a way to fix and continue going, maybe I’ll have to sacrifice what I aspire to be but make do with what I got and I ended up being a lot happier then I would have been if I just cut it out completely. And I think that could be seen kind of in my schoolwork. I think that if I did not go, my school would have been affected and I wouldn’t have been as focused and probably more of an angry person, et cetera.

I think that there is a balance to [choosing friends who are similar to you versus ones who benefit you]. In ninth grade I thought the same as a lot of current ninth graders, I really was stuck on, like…I chose the right people, you know, and I thought that, like, oh, these are the people that connect with me and that we have the same interests, hobbies, whatever; and then I later realized that there are a lot of other things that I did not know I liked. And if you get too caught up in isolating yourself then your never going to actually experience and really see all the possible opportunities that could have been if you didn’t extrapolate it out of your group, so I think that it is definitely a balance. It is very good to know what you want and to have your main group of friends that have the same ambitions as you but you should definitely treat everyone else with respect as long as you are treated with respect because there is something to learn from everyone. There’s a quote that says ‘there is superiority in every man in that I learn from him.’ I think a challenge would be to find someone that is very different from you and try to find something in common because you might find something new that you enjoy.”