Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is tough. Real tough. As I get older, it certainly is not getting easier on my body. But my body has done well to adapt to the enormous physical pressures that BJJ thrusts upon it. Just ask any salesperson that I try to buy a dress shirt from. I am not a tall guy, and so having a 19 inch neck really does not help the procurement process where dress shirts are concerned. I wish I had 4 foot long arms. Or a smaller neck, but I digress…
We all feel it when we get home and our metabolisms start to mellow out. We all deal with the bumps and bruises and soreness that comes with it. In fact, to dedicate your life to jiu jitsu means that you develop an awesome ‘sickness’ of sorts where you embrace the pain and discomfort that a good workout brings with it. It is part of the lifestyle. You can’t just train here and there. Jiu jitsu either becomes you or it does not. This is precisely why it is such an effective art. It takes you over and you become obsessed with learning and battling and succeeding/failing, each and every time that you step on the mat. Wrestlers have a saying that says ‘Embrace the Grind’. It applies to BJJ – the message does, not necessarily the grind part.
But here is the thing: The hardest part of BJJ is not the physical. It is the mental. I have dealt with it myself and counsel my students in the same: The hardest part about BJJ are the mental peaks and valleys that come with it. In how many other activities can you study hard for years, yet come away some days thinking that you know absolutely nothing? Other days you are firing on all cylinders and you walk out off the mat practically beating your chest. There are highs and lows in your jiu jitsu journey and the lows anyway, are compounded by the inherent difficulty of the jiu jitsu learning curve. Not only is it hard to get smashed for much of your white belt stage, but it is hard to grasp all of what you learn. This never really goes away. The mental stress is multiplied by the fact that not only do you need to study and scrutinize basic techniques to master them, but these techniques themselves are constantly evolving, thus adding to the long list of stuff that you need to know, or that you think you need to know.
This is what defeats so many new BJJ practitioners. This is what contributes to the extremely high drop out rate – the daunting feeling of thinking that you have to learn it all and learn it now. It is a tall mountain to climb. I had a white belt student almost quit on me the other day. He is a dedicated student and a thinker. I had to talk him off the ledge and I did by reminding him that at his level, all he needs to focus on is defense. All he needs to do is to show up and train and it will all fall into line. I was able to help him ascend his deep, deep valley. You know, sometimes I think the YouTube revolution is both the best and worst thing to come to the world of BJJ. On one hand, it is great to see techniques on line and to watch competitions. On the other hand, it can be destructive for a new student to want to learn what he sees when he does not have the foundation or understanding to attempt a game that is above his or her level.
The bottom line here is that you have to embrace the complexities of BJJ. You have to embrace the fact that even at black belt, you are still a student who does not know it all. You have to find your path. BJJ is personal. Find your game, show up to class, put your time in on the mat and above all, understand that peaks and valleys are natural. Just ride the wave, or flow with the go as someone once said ;)