The Holistic Approach to Sports: How Integrating Life and Athletics Leads to a Fulfilling Practice

A fulfilling practice is a type of activity or pursuit that provides a deep sense of satisfaction, purpose, and joy to the individual engaging in it. It is characterized by a sense of personal fulfillment, where the individual feels that their efforts and contributions are making a positive impact and that they are growing and developing as a person.

In the context of sports, a fulfilling practice might involve more than just achieving athletic goals, such as winning games or setting personal records. It might also include a sense of community, personal growth, and self-discovery. For example, a fulfilling sports practice might involve building meaningful relationships with teammates, developing mental toughness and resilience, and learning how to overcome obstacles both on and off the field.

Ultimately, a fulfilling practice is one that allows the individual to integrate their personal values, interests, and goals into their athletic pursuits, creating a holistic and enriching experience.


My name is François Deniau, I was born near Paris in 1969 and sports have always been part of my life. I always had to do some physical activities at some point, until I integrate nutrition and welness practice. I see now jiu-jitsu as an holistic discipline that can bring a lot to anyone. If I practice a lot jiu-jitsu as a competition it is because it had to be like that, from 1984 to 2016 until I lost motivation in competing and focused more on well being.

Outdoor training, Xlendi (Gozo)

Permettez-moi de partager avec vous quelques réflexions sur le jiu-jitsu et comment les choses peuvent s'accumuler, s'enrouler autour d'une pratique sportive et devenir un parcours initiatique.

My older brother and I started to play and wresltle when we were 6 or 7 and sometimes with friends I was grabbing the legs of a taller guy and I understood in spite I was more little I could make him fall. It was just a game. In this way jiu-jitsu has to be a playful game at his core. Then eventualy it will become an efficient self-defense tool. One of the particularity of jiu-jitsu is to be connected to our natural ability to play and wrestle.

Wrestling sports like jiu-jitsu can be related to neural connections, intelligence, and spiritual growth in a number of ways.

Firstly, wrestling sports such as jiu-jitsu require a high level of neural connectivity and cognitive processing. Athletes must be able to react quickly and adapt to changing situations, making split-second decisions about their movements and strategies. This requires a highly developed neural network, with efficient communication between different areas of the brain.

In addition, the practice of jiu-jitsu can lead to improved intelligence and cognitive function over time. Studies have shown that regular exercise, including martial arts training, can improve memory, attention, and executive function, all of which are important for overall cognitive performance.

Finally, the practice of jiu-jitsu and other wrestling sports can also lead to spiritual growth. The discipline and focus required for these sports can help individuals develop a deeper sense of self-awareness and self-control, as well as a greater appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things. This can lead to a sense of inner peace and a greater understanding of one’s place in the world.

In summary, the neural connectivity required for jiu-jitsu, the cognitive benefits of regular exercise, and the spiritual growth that can result from the practice of wrestling sports all contribute to a holistic understanding of the benefits of these activities.

A complementary thing that came also not long after is snorkeling I started at 10, almost in the same time I started judo and jiu-jitsu. I would not expect that these playful and enjoyable things could lead to something so deep, but still was attracted by these depth, see life as a mystery, such as the universe and everything we see seems a miracle… Water, the Sea and martial arts started to take more and more importance and help me to become rooted in reality. I was competing in bjj without affiliation and then from 2006 to 2016 under Megaton Wellington Dias / Gracie Humaita from, traveling 5 times to Brazil and in the US. It was part of my jpurney into jiu-jitsu. Any european discovering the first ufc on a video tape and keen on bjj would have be more than honoured to meet any members of the Gacie family. It was alredy a legend when the firts UFCs came out and everything started to speed. I didn’t expect all this happened and I am glad I met so many friends. I am what I am.

While competing in the US I had the chance to meet few times Rickson Gracie and also his son Kron.

Being coached by Rolker Gracie, winning my fight in Rio de Janeiro state Championship under the guidance and coaching of Rolker and Royler Gracie was a great honour. Being able even to roll with Royler and visit his father with Rolker was the greatest honour ever. Then the encounter of the Great Master Master Helio Gracie in person. That was the Greatest honour and never expected. Thank you for this inestimable legacy Ooossss

With Great Master Helio Gracie in 1996 in his ranch up in the mountains of Petropolis

I will never forget this day. I thank my family and all the teachers who put me on that way. Here is a link to know more about Herlio Gracie.

From left to right : Royler Gracie, François Deniau and Megaton at Gracie Humaita academy in 2008

In 2012 when I had an injury on my left knee (a torn meniscus) because I was training too much the half guard on my favourite side. So I changed that and completly healed with regular swimming (when 2 different doctors urge me to do a surgery). The most spectacular healing effect of water was in 2016 when I recover with swimming from 8 fractures on my ankles (while doing canyoning). I was totally healed 3 months after my accident because I went as soon as possible in the sea, starting with the contact of water, then bathing, moving slowly and day after day swimming short distances until I could swim 8 kilometers at once, discovering and still practicing since long distances swimming. If you think in terms of energy, we human are dealing with that chemistry. This amount of energy can destroy us or can be stored and used in the most effective way. The purpose of martial arts is to make us the master of that energy and be able to use the flow of energy. But who doesn’t make any mistakes? I may fall again an again until I make it… getting the understanding of the flow. And this has also to do with water… and also wind… You get it? Namaste my dear friend!


Michel and I on his boat after we dived in a beautiful natural park with big groupers in The national Parc of Port-Cros & Porquerolles. One of the french “Underwater Sanctuaries”…

A big turn in my freediving exploration was my encounter with Michel Nox. He introduce me to his world, wich is out of the competition and completely into exploration.

Combining the practice of jiu-jitsu and freediving can have a number of benefits, including:

  1. Improved mental and physical fitness: Both jiu-jitsu and freediving require a high level of physical and mental conditioning. Practicing both can lead to improved strength, endurance, and cardiovascular health, as well as improved mental focus, concentration, and relaxation.
  2. Increased body awareness: Both jiu-jitsu and freediving require a high level of body awareness and control. Practicing both can lead to an increased understanding of one’s body, as well as improved coordination, balance, and proprioception.
  3. Improved breathing techniques: Both jiu-jitsu and freediving require controlled breathing techniques. Combining the two practices can lead to a deeper understanding of breathing and improved breath control, which can be beneficial not only in these activities but also in daily life.
  4. Increased confidence and resilience: Both jiu-jitsu and freediving require a certain level of risk-taking and mental fortitude. Practicing both can lead to increased confidence, resilience, and the ability to stay calm and focused under pressure.
  5. Expanded understanding of martial arts: Combining jiu-jitsu with freediving can expand one’s understanding of martial arts beyond the traditional gym setting, and can help to bring a greater awareness of one’s body, the environment, and the interconnectedness of all things.

Combining the practice of jiu-jitsu and freediving can lead to improved physical and mental fitness, increased body awareness, improved breathing techniques, increased confidence and resilience, and an expanded understanding of martial arts beyond the traditional gym setting.

So water is important as well as every element.

About the invisible one : “The book of 5 rings” from the famous samurai Miyamoto Musashi is related to the 4 elements and a fifth one corresponding to the spirritual aspect. The classic approach to sense, comprehend, transcend through meditation but also through art and science, developing consciousness of breathing, mastering our emotions, finding balance, equilibrium, fluidity, like a quiet inner quest.


“The Book of Five Rings” by Miyamoto Musashi is a classic text on martial arts strategy and philosophy. The book is divided into five parts, each one representing a different element of the samurai’s training:

  1. Earth: This section focuses on the importance of mastering the basics and building a strong foundation in one’s training.
  2. Water: This section emphasizes the importance of adaptability and fluidity in combat, as well as the need to be aware of one’s surroundings and to use them to one’s advantage.
  3. Fire: This section focuses on the importance of timing and the ability to strike when the opportunity arises.
  4. Wind: This section emphasizes the importance of knowing one’s opponent and being able to read their movements and intentions.
  5. Void: This final section focuses on the importance of the spiritual aspect of martial arts and the need to cultivate a calm and focused mind.

Overall, “The Book of Five Rings” emphasizes the importance of mastering both the physical and spiritual aspects of martial arts, as well as the need to be adaptable, aware, and strategic in combat. It is a timeless text that continues to inspire martial artists and those interested in the philosophy of combat to this day.

Jiju-jitsu, freediving, yoga, stretching, meditation, nature, creativity became complementary to one another. Whatever you do you shape it into your own lifestyle, or art of living. For example freediving is for me a complementary thing that fit perfect to the practice of martial arts through the let go and breathing awareness. I have also found in 2000 while traveling in Australia, the perfect musical instrument to explore even more this aspect with fun : let me introduce you a little bit to… the didjeridoo!


Didgeridoo’s are amazing very heathy instruments to practice. They allow to strenghten your breathing muscles, improve diaphragm mobility…

The didgeridoo is a wind instrument that originates from Australia and is known for its low-pitched, resonant sound. While it may seem like an unlikely fit for freediving, there are actually a number of reasons why the didgeridoo is well-suited to this practice.

Firstly, the practice of playing the didgeridoo can help to strengthen the muscles used in breathing, which is an essential skill in freediving. By playing the didgeridoo, individuals can improve their breath control and lung capacity, which can help them to dive deeper and stay underwater for longer periods of time.

Secondly, the low-pitched, resonant sound of the didgeridoo can have a calming and meditative effect, which can be beneficial for those practicing freediving. The sound can help individuals to relax, focus their minds, and enter into a more meditative state, which can be useful for reducing anxiety and increasing concentration when diving.

Finally, the didgeridoo can also be used as a tool for equalizing pressure in the ears, which is an important skill for freedivers. By playing the instrument and changing the pitch and volume, individuals can help to equalize the pressure in their ears, which can prevent discomfort and potential injury when diving.

Didgeridoo is a unique and beneficial instrument for those practicing freediving. It can help to improve breathing skills, induce a meditative state, and assist with equalizing pressure in the ears, all of which are important skills for successful and safe freediving.

It offers also several benefits for Jiu-Jitsu practitioners, including improved breath control, increased lung capacity, relaxation and stress relief, improved focus and concentration, and better sleep.


Ginástica Natural is a form of physical training developed by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert Alvaro Romano. It combines elements of yoga, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and other martial arts, as well as animal movements, to improve flexibility, mobility, strength, and overall fitness. The practice emphasizes the use of natural movements that mimic those of animals, such as crawling, rolling, and balancing, to develop body awareness and coordination. It can be practiced by people of all ages and fitness levels and has become increasingly popular as a form of functional fitness training.

I like to explore and combine things naturally, as it comes. As Ginástica Natural originate from yoga, and as I practice and teach freediving, conscious breathing exercises came along easily. It is part of it.

Conscious breathing is the practice of intentionally focusing on one’s breath to promote relaxation, stress relief, and increased mindfulness. It involves paying attention to the sensation of the breath as it moves in and out of the body, and consciously controlling its rhythm and depth. This can be done through various techniques, such as deep breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, or alternate nostril breathing, among others. Conscious breathing is often used in meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness practices, but it can also be practiced at any time, anywhere, as a quick and effective way to calm the mind and reduce stress. Regular practice of conscious breathing has been shown to have numerous physical and mental health benefits, such as reducing anxiety, improving sleep, lowering blood pressure, and increasing overall well-being.

Combining Ginástica Natural (or Ginastica) and conscious breathing can offer a holistic approach to physical and mental well-being, promoting strength, flexibility, cardiovascular health, mindfulness, and relaxation.


Combining Jiu-Jitsu, Ginástica Natural, conscious breathing, and relaxation with sound instruments can offer numerous benefits, including:

  1. Improved flexibility and mobility: Ginástica Natural and Jiu-Jitsu focus on natural and functional movements that improve flexibility and mobility, while conscious breathing helps to relax the muscles and increase flexibility.
  2. Deep relaxation: The combination of Ginástica Natural movements, conscious breathing, and the calming sounds of instruments such as singing bowls can create a deeply relaxing experience.
  3. Improved physical and mental well-being: These practices work together to promote physical strength, flexibility, cardiovascular health, and mindfulness, while reducing stress, anxiety, and physical pain.
  4. Enhanced body awareness: The use of sound instruments can help to heighten body awareness and promote a deeper connection with the body during movement and relaxation practices.
  5. Improved sleep: The combination of these practices can help to promote restful sleep and improve the quality of rest.
  6. Increased focus and concentration: The calming effects of the sound instruments can help to increase focus and concentration during movement and meditation practices.
  7. Promoting a sense of inner peace: The combination of these practices can help to promote a sense of inner peace, harmony, and well-being, promoting an overall sense of calm and relaxation.

Overall, combining Jiu-Jitsu, Ginástica Natural, Freediving, and Sound Instruments can offer a holistic approach to physical and mental well-being, promoting physical fitness, mental clarity and focus, breathing capacity and control, stress reduction and relaxation, and a deeper mind-body connection.

It is an example of a holistic approach to sports. Jiu-Jitsu is my way to unite everything.

Thank you for reading me so far. You are absolutely welcome to our humble dojo in Xaghra.

A warmful Ooosss from the crew!

François Deniau

Aknowlegement to my family and my teachers :

Jacques Noris (Judo Club of Cergy) 1982 to 1986

Marc Mermet (Judo Club Dauphinois) 1986-1989

Thierry Oviz (Judo Club d’Echirolles) 1989-1991

Philippe Petit (GUC JCD Grenoble) 1991-1992

Jean-Pierre Millon (GUC JCD Grenoble) 1992-1995

Neil Adams (Neil Adams Club Coventry, England) 1993-1994

Military service in Grenoble, so I could train at the GUC JCD in 1994-1995

Daniel Ray (CS DOUA, Villeurbanne) 1995-2000

Jean-Paul Pagnoud (CS DOUA, Villeurbanne) 1995-2000

Ricardo Carvalho (Team Edson Carvalho) 2003

Cid Borges (Team Edson Carvalho) 2003- 2011

Wellington “Megaton” Dias / Royler Gracie (Team Gracie Humaita) 2005-2017

Luciana Dias / Royler Gracie (Team Gracie Humaita) 2005-2017